Fulfillment Special Report: In-store Returns ... Sales Opportunities in Disguise
One in four consumers who return an item purchased online to a retail outlet will make another purchase while in the store, reports Shop.org and Forrester Research in “The State of Retailing 7.0.” The annual study also notes that 87 percent of retailers accept in-store returns of online purchases, evidence, says the report’s authors, that channel integration is becoming a growing priority for multichannel marketers.
This data supports the observations made by the etailing group, a Chicago-based e-commerce consultancy, in its Mystery Shopping report on the 2003 holiday sales season. Earlier this year, the etailing group reported that, based on its experiences returning items purchased online to the retail locations for 15 merchants, multichannel marketers overall need to make the process easier for customers: Only 33 percent of stores offered a dedicated returns counter; 20 percent did not use packing slips that worked with the store’s POS systems; and 47 percent of returns transactions required the assistance of a supervisor.
To help multichannel merchants improve their in-store returns process for products purchased online, the etailing group developed the following checklist. If there’s still time, take action to ensure customers spend less time making a return so they can spend more time shopping your sales racks.
In-store Returns Checklist
1) Train store associates to handle online purchase returns, so there’s no confusion in the moment.
2) Create a dedicated returns counter.
3) Offer robust store locators on your Web site, with toll-free phone numbers and current store hours.
4) Put complete information for returns on all merchant paperwork, from packing slips to online purchase receipts.
5) Brief all channel partners on in-store returns and requisite information.
6) Create an online information center with contact information, FAQs, guarantees, return policies and tips for first-time customers.
7) Instill in all employees a belief that the customer is always right.
8) Put impulse products and gift cards near the returns counter to drive incremental sales.
9) Promote all channels to customers via all other channels.
10) Develop flexible policies and encourage friendly employee attitudes to accommodate operational problems.
To learn more about “The State of Retailing 7.0,” visit www.shop.org. The etailing group can be reached at (773) 975-7280.