Few retailers would argue with the notion that for years customers have held retailers to high (and increasing) expectations. Now it appears from a recent survey that a small, but significant, percentage of consumers are willing to take retail justice into their own hands when things don’t go their way.
A worrisome percentage of consumers appears to have few qualms about filing claims saying online deliveries never arrived even though they did, or keeping unsatisfactory products while clawing back the purchase price through credit card companies, or stretching retailers' returns policies.
For instance, 8.1 percent of consumers say they have told an online retailer that an order never arrived, when it actually had, according to a survey of 2,010 consumers conducted by Survata on behalf of Signifyd. Another 6 percent admitted to keeping a product they weren't satisfied with, while asking their credit card company to issue them a refund on behalf of a retailer. And when it comes to returns, 8 percent of respondents said they had purchased something online with the intent of returning it once it had served its purpose. This is all according to Signifyd's recent report, “Retail 2020: How Retailers Can Rekindle Customer Love and Avoid Consumer Abuse.”
If 8% of Customers Say They Take Advantage of You, How Many Really Do?
Granted, the relatively small numbers are encouraging, except for the fact that they represent lost sales and added expenses for retailers. And you have to wonder, if 8 percent of consumers publicly admit that they game return policies, how many actually do?
“What you’re describing is sort of what happens when we erode trust,” Ann Skeet, senior director, leadership ethics at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, told us. “People start to rationalize all kinds of behavior.”
It seems it's time for retailers to focus on rebuilding trust, particularly at a time when many are experiencing Cyber Week-like order spikes and a wave of new online shoppers — 143 percent more than pre-pandemic levels, according to Signifyd data.
Fortunately, the survey is a primer on what retailers can do to build back trust. Consider those shoppers who reported a package never arrived even though it did. It turns out, 29.4 percent of them did so because the order arrived later than promised. Another 17.2 percent said the product wasn’t what they expected, but they couldn’t figure out how to return it. Another 11.7 percent said returning the item(s) was too much trouble. Essentially, then, more than 58 percent of shoppers behaving badly were reacting to unsatisfactory fulfillment or return experiences.
Sometimes it’s Not Them, it’s You
The survey uncovered similar trends with consumers who cancel online orders before they’re delivered. More than 18 percent did so because they never received a confirmation or because their follow-up email said their order was “pending” with no further explanation. Another 27.6 percent said either that the order took too long to arrive or that they found the product offered with faster delivery elsewhere.
Given the inspiration for abusive behavior, retailers should consider doing the following:
- Be thoughtful about your return policy and present it in a clear way. Make sure it's easy to find on your site. Include return shipping labels with orders.
- Work proactively to avoid returns. Make sure product descriptions and photos are clear, detailed and accurate. Include sizing guides and customer reviews. Turn to technology to help with sizing and appearance. Add how-to and product-explainer videos.
- Consider restricting serial returners, understanding that consumers are evenly split on whether such policies are fair. Consider investigating the reasons for returns to see if you can reduce them with a fix.
- Be accessible to customers who have complaints so they can turn to you rather than file a chargeback with their credit card company. Consider big data and machine learning solutions to better identify questionable claims.
- Confirm your customers’ orders immediately and provide timelines for delivery. Quickly communicate any snags and tell them what to expect.
The truth is, your customers want to like you. Your job is to make sure you don’t give them a reason not to.
Mike Cassidy is lead storyteller at Signifyd, a leader in e-commerce fraud protection and chargeback prevention.
Related story: Returns Abuse: A $24 Billion Problem