Retailers lose more than $600 billion each year to sales returns. Labeled the “ghost economy” by IHL Group, retailers in North America accounted for $183 billion of that number alone. Understanding the importance of returns in the consumer journey is critical for indie retailers looking to stay competitive and succeed in today’s online marketplace.
Returnly, the smart returns platform, recently released its “2020 State of Returns Report.” Unlike other studies that shed light on online returns by analyzing reverse logistics data, Returnly’s report focuses on shopper behavior at the point of return. It is the largest report of its kind, analyzing a sample of four million shoppers in the U.S. spanning across the top growing direct-to-consumer ecommerce verticals.
“Our goal is to give direct-to-consumer brands insights on what modern shoppers expect when returning and exchanging products online,” said Eduardo Vilar, founder and CEO of Returnly. “Our return personas give brands a blueprint to offer memorable return experiences that turn First-Time Returners into Loyalists.”
Meet the Returner Personas
Returnly has distilled key behavioral insights from a sample of four million shoppers in the U.S. across the fastest growing ecommerce verticals to identify the preferences and expectations of six key returner personas. By identifying the “ideal” returner persona and introducing other key returner personas, this can help retailers more effectively optimize their return strategies and platform.
Here are the different return personas and tips for how to deal with them:
The Loyalist is the “ideal” returner. Even though Loyalists are three times more likely to return items than the average customer, they buy even more frequently. Returnly data shows they account for 39 percent of a brand’s revenue and return undamaged merchandise on-time. This allows brands to restock and remarket returns at full price during the season, growing their business profitably. The downside? Loyalists are a rarity: they make less than 10 percent of the customer base.
- Tip: The Loyalist is your ideal returner. Celebrate her loyalty with a rewards program that issues exclusive perks that increase in value with each dollar spent.
The Now Returner
“Where is my refund?” is the number one customer support contact request after starting a return. For the Now Returner, a slow refund process makes online returns particularly stressful, making them more likely to inbound customer support. They expect an easy-to-navigate, mobile-first experience and proactive updates should delays arise.
- Tip: Make instant gratification and return tracking part of your strategy to turn Now Returners into Loyalist Returners.
The First-Time Returner
These hesitant yet rule-abiding users are responsible for the bulk of the ad spend of e-tailers. They are fast to add items to their shopping cart but slow to click the “buy now” button. The hold up? They always prepare for the worst and scan the returns policy. Offering a convenient, liberal returns policy that is easy to find and is supported by a fair return process can give First-Timers the confidence to buy.
- Tip: Turn First-Time Returners into Loyalist Returners with free returns and an easy-to-find policy. Delight with simplicity. Exceed expectations with surprises like credit to shop again.
The Lazy Returner
These customers will make returns on their own time, but expect brands to right any wrongs quickly and easily. Lazy Returners start their return more than three weeks after an order has been delivered. The catch? Men are 50 percent more likely than women to be Lazy Returners.
- Tip: Turn Lazy Returners into Loyalist Returners with flexible policies and options to provide instant gratification and resolution at the point of return.
The Fitting Room Returner
These customers will buy multiples of the same item in different colors and sizes, try them on in the comfort of their own home, then return what they don’t want. The high rate of returns from Fitting Room Returners results in razor-thin gross margins for brands, something particularly challenging in the fast-moving fashion industry. They place a high value on brands that make returns free, easy, and without penalties.
- Tip: Self-service returns, instant credit to shop again and quick turnaround times to get the right item can quickly turn a Fitting Room Returner into a Loyalist Returner.
The Policy Abuse Returner
These customers buy with no intention of keeping, and use returns as a way to get something they want for free such as shipping fees waived or to wear an outfit once to an event.
- Tip: To help prevent fraudulent free returns, identify when free returns are costing you money, and set that rate as a threshold. Prioritize returns data and fraud prevention tools to help combat Policy Abuse Returners.