Why Do Shoppers Return Purchases, And How Can Brands And Retailers Reduce Returns


Product returns are a fact of life for all brands and retailers – even the best out there. Returns (especially free ones) are a logistical nightmare – and a costly one at that. According to an NRF survey, the average retailer incurs $166 million in returns for every $1 billion in sales. And the costs of shipping both ways, labor, and storage add up. 

To add insult to injury, Gartner research found that less than half (48%) of returned merchandise can be resold at full price. In fact, returned merchandise ends up in the landfill more often than we’d like to think – causing a big hit to both your bottom line and the environment.

It’s no wonder why a growing number of brands and retailers are saying “enough is enough” and taking action to reduce returns. Some – including industry leaders like the Gap and J.Crew – have reduced the window in which they’ll accept free returns. And according to an article for RetailWire, others, including Abercrombie & Fitch, REI, and Anthropologie, are charging a fee for mailed returns. Some are even doing both. 

Tightening your returns policies may help you reduce the amount of merchandise that’s sent back. But if your policies are too rigid, it’ll likely cost you your customers. That’s because modern consumers have come to expect flexible (and free) returns across product categories.

Brands and retailers must strike the right balance of meeting shoppers’ expectations for flexible returns – while still preserving profits. But how?

The first step is to take a closer look at the returns habits of modern consumers – and the reasons behind their behaviors. By understanding the key motives behind returns, brands and retailers can more effectively address them.

We surveyed more than 9,000 U.S. consumers to understand how return policies impact purchase decisions, why shoppers return merchandise, and strategies that help brands and retailers to combat many of these reasons.

Special thanks to our friends at PowerReviews for their insights on this topic.
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Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. Starting in the early 2000s, Steve achieved eBay Power Seller status which propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. Four years later through a successful exit from that startup, he embarked on his next journey into digital strategy for direct-to-consumer brands.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify, where he helps brands to identify, navigate and accelerate growth online and in-store.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the top-rated twice-weekly podcast eCommerce Fastlane. He interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, that assist Shopify-powered brands to improve efficiencies, profitably grow revenue and to build lifetime customer loyalty.

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