While 2020 and 2021 were certainly years of unknowns, one thing is certain: online shopping is here to stay. According to one study from Shopify, over 46% of consumers said they feel uncomfortable shopping in-person
With the growing trend of online purchasing comes an increase in returned merchandise. The National Retail Federation reports that US consumers returned $428 billion of goods in 2020, which equates to a return rate of 10.6 percent. And e-commerce returns account for nearly a quarter of that volume. If that's not bad enough, those returns also create a giant carbon footprint and cause migraines for all.
Chances are brands who aren’t set up for an omni-channel model to receive items back to their warehouse and/or retail stores will take a hit
Returning a pair of shoes with an open box with untied laces needs to be handled differently than a garment that has a hole in it. Many companies still don’t have the technology in place to handle these nuances. And the sad, yet not-so-dark secret of retail, is that it’s often more profitable for items to be sold to discounters via a web of shipping, driving and flying them around the globe, or worse yet, burned. But alas if you're brand side, discounters make you cringe as it denigrates the value over time.
it’s not just brands who experience return discontent, it’s shoppers as well
According to a 2020 report by Yotpo, 70% of consumers rating return and refund policy among one of the most important aspects of making an online purchase, Given most aren’t exactly heading into stores in today’s climate, 19% of consumers intentionally order multiple variations of a one item (various colors or sizes), and then bank on returning the purchases that don't work out. Planning for that can be a migraine and impact product planning and forecasts, and impact AOVs. Add to the mix that consumers expect to be able to return unwanted items conveniently and usually, without an incremental cost.
If you think this is circumstantial and/or temporary, think again. Amazon Returns are now accepted at all Kohl’s stores — another smart move on Amazon’s part and an even better move for Kohls who can now leverage Amazon’s consumers to generate in-store traffic. But It’s not just Kohls who is ahead of the game here, we only have to look at this list of impressive return policies that sometimes include no receipts or offer year-long, no-questions-asked returns. Some think this is a liability, but if you turn this thinking on its head, you’ll realize flexible return policies often can drive more foot traffic and increase purchase opportunities in the future.
For brands who want to have less inventory go to the off-price discount channel and leverage in-store locations as return and/or distribution centers. omni-channel operations Is the path forward and RFID is a critical starting point on that journey.