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Study: Returns process remains flawed


Retailers’ returns policies are critical factors in consumers' purchasing decisions. But many consumers are far from pleased with their experience.

This was revealed in Voxware’s third biennial report, which highlights why consumers return items purchased online or by phone and how their experiences with the returns process affects their future intentions to shop with retailers.

In the study, 96.8% of shoppers agree that how well an online retailer handles returns influences whether they will decide to order items from them again in the future. Almost 40% (36.2%) prefer to return items purchased online or by phone with a prepaid mailing label, and 44.9% prefer in-store returns.

However, 24% stated that a retailer has sent them an incorrect item for a second time after returning an item that was sent in error, and 60.3% of those who received an incorrect order twice said they are unlikely to shop with that retailer again for future purchases.

And the mistakes run the gamut. For example, 23.2% noted that 10% or more of the items they return are because of retailer error, while 31.4% stated they received an item that was correct, but was the incorrect size or color.

Another 21.5% stated they received the incorrect item altogether, and 20.0% specified they return items received from large retailers more frequently compared to purchases from small retailers, the study said.

Shoppers also expect their favorite brands to make good on their mistakes, as 28.4% expect retailers to replace merchandise shipped in error with the correct product in two days or less, and 37.7% expect compensation (such as a discount, coupon, or credit) from the retailer when they receive the wrong item or when it arrives late, data revealed.

“This research shows that retailers need to focus equally on outbound and inbound operations in order to exceed consumer expectations,” said Keith Phillips, president and CEO, Voxware.

Brands that aren’t focused will feel their shoppers wrath, as 45.5% of consumers are likely or very likely to share their negative experiences about a product and/or retailer online if a delivery is late or the wrong item is received, the study showed.

“Mistakes in distribution operations are still too common, and the result is a negative lasting impact on customer loyalty, reputation, and the bottom line,” Phillips said. “Retailers can no longer afford to lag behind and must optimize the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of distribution operations with tools such as multimodal voice and predictive analytics to avoid being left behind. The time for retailers to optimize their distribution operations is now.”
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