The near-infinite variety of goods made available through online shopping has dramatically changed the way people shop. They’re more selective and more demanding of the companies they buy from—and that includes return policies. In fact, the way a company handles returns is now a significant service differentiator—one that can win or lose customers.
People now purchase items often knowing some or all of them will be returned. And the generous return policies of online retailers—created out of obvious necessity—have carried over to physical retail. Today, regardless of how or where (or even when) a customer bought it, they want to be able to return it.
Recent research from Oracle shows that for the 2019 holiday season, “77% of consumers plan to return some of their gifts and nearly 20% expect to return more than half”. These might be items that don’t fit. Or gifts that aren’t suitable. Or an item that later is found for a better price somewhere else.
With all the options out there, consumers don’t want to miss out, and that means being able to return something as easily as it was purchased. Retailers that don’t have flexible return policies may want to re-think them—and communicate them effectively. Today, the better and clearer the return policy, the more competitive the brand.