Post-Holiday: Customers Will Demand Easier Returns Process
As the holiday season winds down, many consumers will move on to the next phase of the shopping process — making returns, a fact of life that can be brutal to many mailers’ bottom lines. According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for returns management solutions provider Newgistics, 90 percent of direct shoppers cited a convenient returns policy as very important, important or somewhat important in deciding to shop with a new or unknown online or catalog retailer. The survey polled 1,017 American adult shoppers during the Black Friday/Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23-25).
“Customers are concerned that if it doesn’t fit right or if for whatever reason it’s not exactly what they thought it was going to be, they need to be able to feel comfortable that they can make a return,” says Ken Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing at Newgistics. “They don’t want to have to fight with the retailer to get their money back.”
Here are some more findings from the survey to reinforce the notion that a convenient, easy and efficient return policy is essential for multichannel merchants.
* 69 percent said they’re not likely to shop again with a direct retailer if the returns process is inconvenient; and
* 68 percent of respondents said the ability to make a return from home was very important or important when deciding whether to shop with an online or catalog retailer.
The survey also confirmed the growing trend of consumers looking to buy direct. For instance,
* 79 percent said they shop direct (through catalogs or online);
* 64 percent reported they shop online, a 10 percent increase from last year and a 20 percent increase from 2004;
* 69 percent said they shop specifically through catalogs; and
* 94 percent said they shop in stores.
Effect on Catalogers
How does this affect catalogers? As more consumers use the catalog as a support mechanism to Web ordering, the catalog must be as accurate as possible to avoid returns, Johnson says. “This is getting to be less of the case, but people [typically] had the notion that what you saw in a catalog or online wasn’t exactly representative of what you were going to get,” he says. “So marketers have spent a lot of time trying to make sure the catalogs they mail and the materials they put on their sites accurately represent the product.”
Still, with returns being a fact of life, the process has to be as easy as possible for customers. “It’s been identified numerous times that the return is the No. 1 inhibitor to shopping online or through a catalog,” Johnson says. “So make it as pleasurable a process as possible. It helps keep customers and improves loyalty.”