Warehouse worker processing and restocking returns

Why Adoption of Digital Return Methods Is Up 30%

Gone are the days where consumers are happy to call customer service to initiate a return or dig through the recycling bin for that all-important receipt—today's shopper demands convenience and choice in their return experience. For this reason, digital return methods are exploding in popularity.

From initiating a return to inserting their order into the mailstream, digital return offerings simplify the return process for customers. This simplification is why adoption of digital return methods—from printerless to boxless returns—is jumping by 30%.

What is a digital return?

Digital returns bring the bulk of the returns process online. It allows shoppers to requesting and process their return via a returns portal that's accessed via a browser or in-app. Once submitted, customer can drop off their items at a designated return point (or schedule convenient home pickup) without the hassle of repacking the item and or printing a return label.

In doing all this, digital returns save consumers time, money, and stress—when brands enable digital returns, common consumer complaints disappear. In addition to customer convenience, here’s why more consumers are opting for digital return methods.

Digital returns are cost effective

Retailers save as much as $0.10 to $0.15 cents per package just on printing costs by eliminating return shipping labels and instructions from packages.

These cost savings incentivize retailers to surface digital return methods prominently in their list of return methods offered.  

Digital returns are environmentally friendly

Digital return methods decrease the amount of paper and packaging included in the outbound order, which reduces the waste produced.

Additionally, returning the package to a local drop-off (e.g. Walgreens), carriers such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL are able to better optimize their routes, consolidate shipments, and haul multiple packages back to the retailer’s warehouse or distribution center. In plain English, it means carriers waste less labor hours and burn less fuel (which lowers emissions).

Digital returns keep customers happy

Digital return methods give customers a simplified process for returning unwanted items which improves customer satisfaction. 

Traditional returns by mail require a customer to call support to request a return merchandise authorization (RMA) code. They then need to...

  • Print their return label at home
  • Fill out the packing slip
  • Rebox the item
  • Connect with a courier
  • Drop their return into the mailstream

That's six tedious steps to return a single purchase—not fun.

Consumers want the convenience of initiating a return online.

They want to avoid making that unpleasant phone call.

Moreover, they don't want to deal with the hassle of finding a printer, a box, or packing tape to repackage the purchase.

Even if shipping supplies aren't an issue, returning multiple items from different transactions by mail is a pain, especially when it comes to matching the correct packing slip with the correct merchandise in the correct box.  

Digital returns make it easy to drop off returns while running errands, and require little besides a smartphone (something just about every American possesses, in star contrast to a printer).

The adoption of digital returns is up 30%

Not only are digital returns becoming more popular, but they're also increasing the overall speed of returns.

According to David Morin, Head of Retail & Client Strategy at Narvar, the average time between initiating a return online and physically returning the item consistently hovered around the five-day mark as recently as two years ago—a timeline that's now about about 3.5 days.

“We suspect consumers are responding to the convenience and choice of return methods that have become readily available,” Morin said.

The longer customers keep an item they plan to return, the greater the odds the retailer will have to resell that item at a discount (or take a loss entirely). Therefore, faster returns mean better margins for retailers.

As customers embrace new ways to make returns, it’s incumbent upon retailers to provide a variety of options to meet that demand. Whether that means adding VIP return perks like free scheduled return pick-up or joining a digital return network, easy returns have become the expectation, not the exception.

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