Let’s look into the future of retail returns
The rapid growth of ecommerce due to the Covid-19 pandemic is making the future arrive faster; even now, the landscape of retail is being redefined by the shopper. Consumer desire for convenience positions merchandise returns as a top and growing priority. Research from the National Retail Federation shows online returns doubled in 2020 and are a major driver of the overall increase in returns, adding cost, complexity and service to the list of issues to address. Returns are a moment of truth in retail: how will you use them to reimagine the consumer experience?
Consider these statistics from our Consumer Returns report and other sources¹, including Barclaycard, Boston Consulting Group, Incisive, Northwestern Kellogg, NPR, National Retail Federation and CNBC, which indicate a large, unfulfilled opportunity to stop a known drain on sales:
- 18 per cent of items ordered online are returned, compared to 11 per cent of those from brick-and-mortar stores. These could be the lost sales you seek.
- 30 per cent of online shoppers over-purchase and return unwanted items.
- 97 per cent of retailers don’t have an executive responsible for returns.
Consumers are leading the dialogue about what makes a great return experience, and retailers need to listen and respond with an improved consumer experience. What are consumers saying about returns that impacts you?
- 92 per cent will buy again if the return process is easy.
- 68 per cent view return policies before making a purchase.
- 53 per cent increase their purchase desire if they can easily return the item.
Boston Consulting Group says people care about the basics: price and the ease of returning goods. It’s becoming even more important in an omnichannel world.
Appriss Retail helps you address returns directly and turn gaps in the consumer experience into gains that generate profits across channels. Our decades of expertise help collapse long timeline projects and assist retailers in becoming more agile, responsive and relevant to consumers as they purchase and make returns.
Improving the omnichannel returns experience
The volume of data within a retail organisation has exploded. One of the benefits of omnichannel commerce is that a retailer can learn much more about its consumers, products and employees than before. However, optimising the omnichannel return process can be complicated. Consumers want easy, hassle-free returns, and retailers face a difficult balancing act of maintaining sales, boosting loyalty and reducing risk.
Appriss Retail solutions use the immense computing power of AI and machine learning to find patterns in a retailer’s volumes of data and offer 1:1 recommendations faster and better than any human could. Data science helps us perform three important tasks in real-time to deliver better omnichannel return experiences for our customers:
- We can examine a consumer’s overall purchase and return history at an omnichannel retailer and instantly help that retailer determine what return policies can be enacted for that consumer at the time of an online purchase to reduce the potential for returns and help lower the overall cost.
- Post-purchase, we can help direct consumers to the most frictionless option to make a return, which also reduces logistics costs and provides opportunities for that retailer to generate future revenue.
- Importantly, we can help that retailer deliver a consumer experience around the return process that makes the shopper want to visit again.
Returns can be your moment of truth
Throughout 2020, we helped our clients pivot to meet new consumer needs and concerns. Along with helping them manage the mechanics, we were able to reveal an important hurdle: in most retail organisations, there is no single owner of returns responsible for the consumer experience and the revenue impact. Yet these focus areas can lift sales by 1.5 per cent and influence profits, making them equally vital to the ongoing health of the organisation.
There are only so many dials a retailer can turn to build both engagement and profitable revenue. When retailers partner with Appriss Retail to optimise returns, they are able to generate more consumer insights. These insights can be used to reduce risk and offer targeted incentives at the point of return to capture incremental sales and profits. They also offer retailers a unique opportunity to let consumers know their returns experience can be personal and easy – a strong reason to keep shopping.
by Steve Prebble, President, Appriss Retail
 All statistics in this article were drawn from our own research as well as from articles from: Barclaycard, Boston Consulting Group, Incisive, Northwestern Kellogg, NPR, National Retail Federation, and CNBC