Two birds, one stone: in-store returns offer a great experience and increase store profits

Returns are expensive to deal with for the vast majority of retailers, but they’re essential to drive customer loyalty and to give customers confidence in their purchases. By encouraging customers to return items to stores (which 45% of customers would already prefer according to UPS research), retailers can immediately recapture the revenue loss from the return and convert more shoppers in stores.

This post is part of our series on eCommerce Returns. Check out our master Guide to eCommerce Returns for a full insight on how to improve your customer experience and make returns more profitable.

Convenience

If there were no other benefits, the fact that customers expect to be able to return online purchases in stores should be enough for retailers to set up processes to allow this to happen. A great returns experience is essential to the whole customer journey, improving consumer’s confidence and willingness to keep shopping with a retailer.

To illustrate this, 95% of shoppers who are satisfied with their return experience will shop again at that retailer, whereas those who have a bad experience are three times more likely to never shop again.

So when 45% of shoppers expect to be able to drop off online returns in stores, retailers should be accommodating that expectation. Even further, they should see the benefits for themselves in such a system.

Propensity to purchase

Customers who have just returned an item are very likely to still be looking to purchase something, whether it’s a different size of the same item or a slightly different style. Encouraging these customers to do their returning in-store draws high-intent traffic that is already comfortable and familiar with your brand, and which has just had a great and convenient experience of returning something.

Even if the customer isn’t looking to replace the product they’re returning, it’s clear that increasing footfall is an essential task for bricks and mortar retail. More and more retailers are offering additional reasons for customers to come to stores, from cafes to hairdressers to click & collect. Returns can play a role in the revitalisation of stores and allow their value to be maximised.

One of the benefits of in-store returns is that the payoff is immediate – additional sales revenue can help limit the short-term cost of returns. In the longer term, the value of returns is immeasurable, with customers rating it as such an important factor in their buying decisions.

Efficient in-store returns

So what are the secrets to efficient in-store returns and how can retailers ensure that their customers get a great experience?

It’s vital to have a clear process and well-trained staff. Associates need to understand where returned parcels belong, how to scan and accept returns, and they need to know the returns policy inside out. Clear signposting for customers is also a must, especially in cases where there is a designated counter for returns.

Hardware can also be a powerful tool to allow customers to self-serve their returns – a pod or locker where customers scan prebooked returns into the locker with a QR code from their phone, generated by a returns portal.

free returns ebook download

Effective in-store returns knit together online sales with offline experiences in store in a way that consumers already fully expect to be able to take advantage of. While we’ve quoted the proportion of consumers prefer returning in store at 45%, the figures for the US show that nearly 6 in 10 prefer this option, making it the default. As commerce continues to blur the boundaries between online retail and bricks and mortar stores, expect to see more services like in-store returns develop and become part of the fabric of retail stores.