Saturday, January 31, 2015

Packages And Returns

It seems as though there is one package or another that arrives at the office on a daily basis. All different shapes, sizes, and weights. Some business and others personal (especially around the holidays). Also a common sights is the occasional box that is put aside to be picked up and returned to where it came from. I have heard all the reasons for send something back even though I rarely do so myself from wrong size or color to poor quality, wrong item all together, or arriving too late and everything in between.

Every time I see one of those packages heading out the door I can’t help but think about the cost of those returns and how the “free returns” policy isn’t really a free service as those anticipated costs are factored into the price of the object. When I looked into the data behind returns (focusing on the online side of things) I was taken aback by the percentage… in 2013, The Wall Street Journal found that nearly a third (33%) of all online purchases were returned for one reason or another. That is a lot of money spend on “free returns”.

Beyond the money it just seems like a pain in the what to have to go through that process and I tried finding some more information on what impact it has on the retailer. From a recent survey I found the following statistics:
  • 54% of respondents stated that the reason for returning an item purchased online or by phone is because the item is the incorrect size or color
  • 97% of respondents stated that the return process is important to their future intentions to shop with a retailer
  • 73% of respondents who receive an incorrect item after already returning it once stated that they are much less likely to shop with that retailer online or by phone again for future purchases
  • 45% of respondents who have experienced continuous return process issues with particular retailers stated that they have limited shopping with that retailer altogether (both online and in-store)
  • 26% of respondents expect the correct item to be shipped to them within one to two days after returning the incorrect item
While I rely more on the end cost of the item and tend to put up with these errors, it seems as though I am among the minority. But it makes me think more about the disconnect that many people have from the products they buy while maintaining the “I see it now and I want it now” mentality. While I prefer going into a store and buying the items that I want or need, online is an inexpensive alternative to get the same thing at a much better price. I wonder how many of those in the above survey could have avoided the return had they seen the color in person and determined if something ran large or small while trying it on in the store.

We have to remember that while online shopping is convenience and cheaper, the in-store experience is sometimes worth the ten minutes out of your day and ten cents out of your pocket. Heck, sometimes it is cheaper to buy in the store if you simply talk to the sales person, manager, or owner. That little bit of time can end up saving you a lot of aggravation if not money and if people stop returning so much stuff online it might even drive down some of those “low prices” even further.