The majority of retailers have changed their returns policies this year, shortening the time frame shoppers have to send an item back, charging fees, or telling shoppers they’ll have to cover the shipping costs themselves.According to the National Retail Foundation, over $761 billion in merchandise was returned last year – 17.8% of all retail sales. One of the reasons is the rise of the online shopping practice called “bracket buying” where consumers order varying sizes and colors of the same item, sending back what they don’t like. This trend toward a high return rate is cutting into margins already strained by the rising costs of fuel and labor. Returns also carry an environmental cost in the form of packaging and fuel needed to send items back.
However, retailers are treading a fine line because surveys reveal that customers place a lot of importance on a high-quality returns process. According to Oracle, 42% of consumers say that an exchange/return policy that’s difficult to navigate is what defines a poor in-store or online shopping experience. Under-par post-holiday returns management can be one of the biggest sources of customer churn. On the flip side, 66% of U.S. consumers say they’re more likely to buy something online when they have the option to return items to a store, while 53% of consumers would consider purchasing additional items after coming in to make a post-holiday return.