A recent survey of UK consumers by customer journey management solutions provider Qmatic has revealed that there is an overwhelming preference among consumers to return unwanted gifts in-store, rather than through other channels.
52% of those that identified a preferred method for returning gifts said that they would choose to do so at a manned returns desk in-store. Qmatic UK managing director Vanessa Walmsley suggests that retailers need to take advantage of having these potential customers in store, implementing strategies to convert this post-Christmas footfall into additional sales.
Vanessa commented: “We saw in our survey that after Christmas, shoppers prefer to exchange or return unwanted gifts in-store rather than through postal collection services, manned drop off points and automated lockers. Retailers have traditionally not been overly keen on the returns process, with all-important sales cancelled out and cash handed over for merchandise that may not even be in saleable condition. However, the preference for consumers to come into stores to return items offers retailers a valuable potential sales opportunity, turning the exchange or refund into a positive engagement with the customer.
“It is critical that retailers make the returns process as straightforward as possible for the customer. Many retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, have built their reputations for excellent customer service, partly based on the ease of customers returning unwanted items. Creating a frictionless, seamless returns process may not only help retailers to increase customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, but may also enable them to convert these returns to sales.”
She added: “Each year, just after Christmas, the retail industry experiences National Returns Day, when shoppers flock to the high street to return unwanted presents. 29% of the consumers that we surveyed reported that they would return a gift on the first weekend after Christmas, and 27% on the first weekend after New Year, putting National Returns Day in early January. This will coincide with many retailers offering seasonal discounts for their January sales. If retailers can put in place frictionless returns processes and convert these returns to sales, then they can maximise profit in a month that, aside from the sales generated through heavy discounting, can be challenging for retailers.”
If retailers want to create a frictionless returns process then they must ensure that the checkout process is smooth and efficient, so that potential shoppers are not put off from purchasing additional items at the same time as they complete their return, Qmatic suggests. The company says that uniting the returns and purchasing process is ‘incredibly important’.
Vanessa concluded: “At a time when the high street is under almost unprecedented strain, retailers cannot afford to let any sales opportunities slip through their fingers. This should include optimising the retail environment and the customer journey to maximise their potential of converting customers, who come in-store to return or exchange items, into a sale. Retailers who can perfect the returns process and make it part of the shopping experience may well see their brand loyalty and customer satisfaction increase, and a corresponding uptick in sales.”