However, just 14% of retailers were considered leaders in returns, according to Incisiv, which assessed 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.
The assessment, dubbed the 2022 Omnichannel Returns Benchmark Index, puts 14 retailers out in front:
Bed, Bath & Beyond
The Home Depot
Returns have come under the spotlight after digital orders across the retail industry accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, 10.6%, or $428 billion, of all retail trade was attributed to returns––and returns are expected to grow in 2022 and beyond.
“The profile of returns has been growing and the pandemic has only accelerated their importance in the retail shopping journey,” Amarjot Mokha, chief operating officer of Incisiv, said in a statement. “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.”
For retailers, the returns experience is important for the customer experience. A whopping 95% of consumers said a poor returns experience will make them less likely to shop from a brand again. Flexible return policies are important to customers and have helped the returns leaders assess higher. However, only 26% of retailers in the index have return windows over 60 days, found Incisvi, which conducted the index in partnership with Appriss Retail. The apparel category leads the industry for flexibility, as all assessed retailers allowed online orders to be returned in store and 90% allowed replacements or exchanges.
The retail industry understands that returns are a normal part of doing business, but there are other ways to improve the issue. Only 20% of retailers in the report have chat agents who can help shoppers initiate returns, and 3% allow shoppers to return items curbside. There are other solutions that can improve the rate of returns as well, including allowing shoppers to modify their online orders. Only 60% of retailers allow shoppers to cancel an order before it ships, and only 16% allow order modifications.
In addition, not all retailers have good data around their returns, including why they occur and whether a specific instance of return is good or bad for business, Incisiv noted in its report.
“Retailers must rethink 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.”