Why customer returns are good for your brand

Returns may seem like a sign of failure - but the alternative may be even more damaging to your brand...

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

As a nation, we’re not very good at returning unwanted stuff to the shops; we waste a fortune buying things that we don’t actually want and then being too embarrassed (or too bone idle) to take them back. On the face of it, this might seem like a boon for retailers – after all, if people don’t bring stuff back, they won’t have to dole out as many refunds. But according to consultancy Retail Eyes, it’s actually bad news – because it may just result in lots of disgruntled customers with a bad impression of your brand, who then tell all their friends as much...

Retail Eyes quotes some Government stat suggesting that we Brits fritter away about £5,000 on unwanted goods that we don’t return - although we can’t work out whether that means individually or collectively, or over what period of time, so actually that’s a bit meaningless. Still, we can well believe that we’re not very good at returning stuff. Retail Eyes reckons it may be because we’re too embarrassed – afraid of causing at the scene at the till, perhaps – or just don’t know how (a particular problem for internet shopping, unsurprisingly, with two-thirds of us less likely to return things we buy online as opposed to in store). And let’s not forget sheer laziness.

So are retailers laughing all the way to the bank with this £5,000 (or however much this actually means in practice)? Not necessarily. Even though we might not take back that shirt that fell apart after its first wear, we’ll be left with the distinct impression that the particular brand of shirt-maker is rubbish – which means that we’ll not only steer clear of them in future, but also potentially tell everyone we know (on and offline) to do the same. So as far as the retailer’s concerned, they’d probably prefer the opportunity to showcase their impeccable customer service by giving you a refund/ exchange. ‘This is actually an opportunity retailers can use to help build brand loyalty and customer retention,’ as Retail Eyes points out.

So how do retailers avoid this invidious state of affairs? Well, apparently the priority is to have a returns process that’s as simple and painless as possible, however you sell your wares – so people will be happy to bring stuff back when they’re not happy, rather than sitting around moaning about it...


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