Minimum usage fee is £35Mandatory Credit: Photo by Cultura/REX/Shutterstock (4794771a)Close up of three christmas gifts with ribbonsVARIOUS

Some retailers dread the yearly holiday return cycle, but the smart ones see opportunity in it — or at least they should, Oracle said Thursday.

In an Oracle Retail survey conducted by Savanta of 15,800 global consumers, the technology giant called out a few numbers for the retail sector. More than three-quarters of the respondents are already planning to return at least some gifts in the upcoming holiday season. And nearly a fifth of those anticipate returning more than half their presents. What’s more, nearly two-thirds plan to do it in physical stores, while just 32 percent intend to mail products in.

What these results suggest may be profound for retailers — particularly as waves of closures continue to roil chains, department stores and malls.

For Oracle Retail’s Jeff Warren, vice president of retail solutions management, the report is clearly a call to arms. “Retailers need to seize the moment when shoppers return gifts,” he said, urging stores to stop looking at product returns as a headache and start seeing them as foot traffic, as well as a valuable source of information.

Ultimately, it’s a chance for stores “to build better customer profiles and generate new opportunities for engagement by personalizing the returns experience,” he added.

Oracle isn’t the only retail platform provider interested in using returns as a way to boost customer loyalty. The concept is a major tentpole for companies such as Narvar, Linc and others.

In April, Narvar partnered with Walgreens to make 8,000 locations a fundamental part of its  Concierge network for pick-ups and returns. Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Levi Strauss & Co., Cole Haan and Alexandre Birman are also participants.

“In order to compete today, retailers need to integrate themselves within the consumer’s busy lifestyle, and not the other way around,” Amit Sharma, Narvar’s founder and chief executive officer, said at the time.

The idea of using merchandise returns to fuel shopper loyalty isn’t a new concept. But as a battle plan in physical retail’s latest fight for survival, it could be paramount.

Owners of physical stores could have even more to look forward to: Despite the brick-and-mortar doomsday scenario that has been playing out this year, the study asserts that consumers still prefer shopping in stores.

As much as 75 percent plan to shop in-store and bring products home, while 55 percent will rely on Internet sales and home deliveries.

Other details from the survey examine some of the generational distinctions:

  • Generation X, defined here as ages 35 to 54, are heavy online shoppers and rely on shipping, to the tune of 57 percent.
  • The Baby Boomer, over-55 crowd is practically neck in neck with Gen Xers when it comes to e-commerce, with 56 percent.
  • Meanwhile Millennial consumers, or those ages 25 to 34, and Generation Z, which ranges from 18 to 24, trail their elders, leaning into home deliveries at 53 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

The two younger groups also tended to include more fans of “buy online, and pick up in store,” also known as BOPIS, with generally twice as many favoring the experience, compared to Baby Boomers.

If these results reflect broader patterns, then it helps explain why trendy direct-to-consumer brands are racing to set up a physical presence, while legacy retailers have been shuttering locations. This series of market convulsions has become retail’s version of Battle Royale, where only the most agile survive to enjoy any cheer.

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