What are the real challenges behind returns?

February 17, 2024 by
Frank Calviño

As always, it will depend. 

By Cinzia Barberis - As in any other detail in life, one size does not fit all, so let’s start going back to basics and get real without getting lost in general - and pretty scary - statistics.

The purchase: Planned vs impulsive buying

It’s pure logic: planned purchases are less likely to end up as a return than impulsive purchases, with technology, fashion and cosmetics being the industries with more impulsive purchases. 

Need vs Desire

So, what happens when you mix desire, impulse and sales periods? Crazy return rates after Black Friday, Sales and Christmas campaigns when 1 out of 3 purchases may end up in a return.

The reason: Why am I really returning?

Serial returners aside (yes, we will speak about them in another post), let’s understand the why behind every return. Let’s be honest, we don’t like to return stuff so, if we did, there might be a reason.

You can get key insights to improve your product, detect manufacturing defects, discover new products to offer, missing info in your product description or new solutions you didn’t know you needed for your ecommerce… not bad, right?

In the era of hyper-personalisation you will need all these details to deliver the experiences your customers are looking for.

The industry: Returns are fashion victims

What to say, returns are fashion victims… or the other way around? As per Statista, the most returned categories are: 

  • Clothing: 25%
  • Bags, accessories and shoes 18% each
  • Food & beverages 13% (that’s a new entry in the top 5!)
  • Consumer electronics 12%

Will the reasons be the same in all four categories? Of course not. 

This general picture leaves us more questions than answers and there is a reason. We talk about returns in a global way, when every product or category has its own reasons and needs. Not to say that we pay all the attention to the negative parts of returns and none to the opportunities behind them.

If we take a look at statistics we see billions of dollars spent and an increasing trend in returns. But we can also find opportunities in these numbers such as: more than 6 out of ten shoppers prefer to return in-store

Ok, it’s true that returns create a lot of challenges in reverse logistics, stock planning, incomplete sizing in fashion, the dilemma of whether to charge or not for returns… ad eternum.

But these are just the end of the list, and we are so focused on this part that we can’t see all we can do before.

Maybe it is time to rethink our approach to returns. And this is the real challenge for 2024. In the following posts I’ll try to think out of the box to find the hidden treasures and opportunities at every step of the returns process.

Cinzia Barberis / Head of Marketing & Communication at Naiz Fit

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