Narvar Q&A with Industry Expert Shep Hyken: Part III

Recently, we chatted with customer experience expert, best-selling author, and Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations Shep Hyken to find out what he thinks is most exciting and interesting about the retail industry today, and what we have to look forward to tomorrow.

In this 3-part blog series, we highlight some of Hyken’s thoughts on these topics—retail, technology, customer experience, and more—to help retailers think about what to consider as the industry landscape continues to change and evolve.

Let’s pick back up where we left off:

Shep Hyken

On the practice of ‘bracketing’:

I saw in your returns consumer study that there was a huge number of people within a specific demographic who are buying and returning items. You get to try something on without having to bring it back.

There are companies out there that are encouraging this behavior because they want customers to feel comfortable doing business with them. Not only will they accept the returns, they’ll pay to have you send the items back. Think about Zappos.com. They’ll sell you three pairs of shoes: the size that you think you need, a half-size bigger, and a half-size smaller. Then the customer just sends back the two they don’t want. They encourage that because they just want you to buy the product.

I’m willing to pay a little bit more for a company that I trust; a company I can count on to take care of me.

On the expectation of free shipping & returns:

I think retailers have to understand that so many times they get upset over things like returns, or free shipping. Conceptually, what’s happening with free shipping is exactly the same as what’s happening in returns. People are saying, “Hey, I want to return something, and I expect that the company is going to take it back.” A large percentage of people abandon their shopping cart if they realize they’re not going to get free shipping, and it’s happening because we’ve trained the consumer that it’s okay to expect it; it’s something they should get. If you’re not getting it, you should go somewhere else. But it’s our own problem—if nobody wanted to be known for free returns, we shouldn’t have started doing free returns.

But that’s impossible, because somebody is going to realize nobody else is doing this thing. I equate it to what I call the amenity wars in the hotel industry years and years ago. They refer to an amenity as something that’s special or extra. So, the first hotel that put a newspaper at the door was pretty clever. Then all of a sudden, it’s, “If they can do it, why can’t we do it?” And then every hotel was doing that. Or putting a piece of chocolate on the pillow. The first hotel to do that was pretty smart, and then every hotel started doing it. That’s what happens. Now, if you go to a hotel and you don’t get your newspaper in the morning for free, you’re disappointed. That’s what’s happening with returns in the retail industry. It’s also happening with free shipping and whatever else we’ve trained the consumer on.

On Amazon’s edge:

Amazon wanted to be the lowest price, always. Now they’re not, and they know it, but they’re so comfortable about it, they’re willing to say, “You can find this from three other retailers at a lower price—just click here.”

Think about it. That’s pretty strong. Why would they do that? Number one: total transparency. Number two: they’re creating trust. And it’s working—many of those consumers will still buy from Amazon, and I’ll tell you why…well, I’ll tell you why I do it, anyway: because I trust Amazon.

I know that if I’m unhappy for any reason, they will take it back. I know that they have a five-star customer service rating. If for some reason I don’t receive my shipment, I know I can contact them and they’ll go to bat and find it for me. Also, I’m a Prime member, which means I’m going to get my free shipping and I’m going to get my order in two days. Many other retailers may offer free shipping, but they don’t necessarily offer it at that two-day Prime level.

I’m willing to pay a little bit more for a company that I trust; a company I can count on to take care of me.


And that’s a wrap!

For even more industry insights, be sure to check out Parts I and II of our blog series with Shep.