The pandemic not only accelerated the digitalization of retailing but also triggered permanent changes in consumer behavior that have reshaped the entire shopping experience. Consumers shop and buy in a variety of ways and on a variety of devices — and in physical stores too.
The shopping journey is no longer linear.
Today’s consumers order items online and may choose to pick up in-store. Or they may order products on a smartphone while shopping inside a store. But how, when, and where they shop is more complicated and challenging for retailers in another key area: product returns. The complexity and inefficiency of returns have never been greater.
But the complexity of returns is not the only problem. Rod Sides, vice chair and U.S. retail and distribution leader at Deloitte, says returns are now becoming “one of the greatest supply chain challenges companies face today, with online purchases being returned three times more often than a purchase made in a brick-and-mortar store.” And just how important is the return experience to consumers?
Industry experts say 84 percent of shoppers will avoid a retailer if they’ve had a bad return experience while many also agree the industry, overall, needs to do better with returns and exchanges. And 80 percent check the return policy before hitting the “buy” button.
Retail industry experts and consultants also see returns and how merchants manage the process to be a key competitive differentiator. Meanwhile, the number of returns is only poised to grow. According to the National Retail Federation, the total 2021 rate of returns rose to 16.6 percent of sales, up from 10.6 percent in 2020. And that rate is expected to be higher this year.
It is within this context that WWD partnered with Happy Returns by PayPal to present this special report, which takes a deep dive into how the customer journey has evolved, what’s fueling shopper behavior, and the evolving role of in-person return drop-off in creating a positive shopping and brand experience. This report also examines the specific pain points around returns and how Happy Returns is offering easy, cost-effective, sustainable solutions to both merchants and consumers that redefine the modern shopping experience and create lifelong customers.
Noting the importance of returns to the full e-commerce journey, David Sobie, co-founder and vice president leading Happy Returns by PayPal, said a positive shopping experience “is one where a consumer doesn’t have to think twice about the purchase or return process, it just works, simply and intuitively.”