New Report Examining Retailers’ Return Policies Released

Incisiv has released its 2022 Omnichannel Returns Index assessing top retailers’ returns capabilities and experiences across four key areas: product content and digital experience, returns policy and information, returns and refund process, and 360-degree service.

Returns accounted for 10.6 percent of retail trade in 2020, and totaled $428 billion. With increased ecommerce adoption across retail segments, returns are set to grow exponentially in 2022 and beyond. Retailers’ digital experiences play a big part in both reducing the incidence of returns as well as making the return experience seamless. While retailers have adopted some key commerce capabilities that help reduce returns and improve the returns experience, there is significant scope for improvement, according to Incisiv.

Every return interaction is ultimately part of the larger fabric of a retailer-shopper relationship. Retailers must expand their ability to understand, analyze, and act according to this broader context. Key findings of the report include:

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  • Health and beauty retailers offer the most advanced functionality around product information and guided content. This reduces the occurrence of returns based on poor or lacking product detail.
  • While 60 percent of retailers allow shoppers to cancel an order before it ships, only 16 percent allow order modifications.
  • The apparel segment is the most mature when it comes to offering returns flexibility. All assessed apparel retailers allow online orders to be returned in stores, and 90 percent allow replacements or exchanges.
  • Six percent of all returns are fraudulent. Of the remaining, 73 percent occur due to retailer-controlled reasons such as inaccurate product descriptions, fit, or quality issues.
  • Leading retailers are beginning to offer flexible return policies, sometimes as a special benefit for loyal or valuable shoppers. Incisiv reports that 26 percent of assessed retailers have return windows over 60 days.
  • As shoppers demand greater returns convenience, new and differentiating capabilities are emerging. Currently only 20 percent of retailers in the report have chat agents who can help shoppers initiate returns, and 3 percent allow shoppers to return items curbside.

Incisiv has recognized 14 retailers and brands as “leaders”, including Apple, Best Buy, Levi’s, Sephora, and The Home Depot. The competitive bar is being raised by the likes of Amazon also, with 95 percent of shoppers saying that a poor returns experience will make them less likely to shop from a brand again. The report details key differentiating capabilities and highlights experiences from each to illustrate what makes them stand out. The complete list of leaders is available to download here.

“The profile of returns has been growing and the pandemic has only accelerated their importance in the retail shopping journey,” said Amarjot Mokha, chief operating officer, Incisiv. “The narrative on returns has to change in retail because as they grow, they will pose a customer, financial, and environmental threat to a retailer’s business. Real savings and enhanced customer satisfaction can be had if retailers devote real resources to the returns process.”

“Retailers must re-think returns as an integral part of their business strategy,” said Steve Prebble, president of Appriss Retail. “Retail is dealing with an influx of returned items; now is the time to stop thinking of returns as a cost of doing business and begin to view them as a time to really engage with your consumers.”

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