Do we need to talk about returns?
Following on from peak retail season, is peak returns season. With the added shift to online purchases during 2020, it is likely that we will see eCommerce returns volumes reach new levels this month.
UPS predicted that it would receive 1.75M returns parcels per day in the first week of January, and FexEx also confirmed that they were seeing record returns volumes. Walmart and Amazon in the US, have indicated that they may simply credit customers and ask them to keep certain products.
There are valid arguments that point to the need for customer-friendly returns policies, as an incentive to shop with confidence, online. Customers want to avoid paying shipping on returns, or restocking fees, and up to 70% of consumers will consider returns policies in making their online purchase decisions.
Companies have become much better at processing returns. Pre-printed return labels, drop off points, online and app options to process returns, all contribute to a faster, cheaper, and better customer experience. With online returns rates running at 30% (higher in fashion and clothing categories), have we educated consumers in the myth of free returns in the same way as we have with the myth of free shipping? There is a real economic cost of returns and perhaps, more importantly, a real environmental cost that we pretend to the consumer, does not exist.
On this occasion we are not offering an easy solution to the issue of managing returns. There are ways to make it better, faster, and to recover more value, but do we need to change how we engage with consumers, on returns for convenience?