Due to rising demand, HGV driver shortages, and more expectant customers than ever before, it’s evident that the ‘Amazon Generation’ are pushing the industry to new levels of transformation. So, what can we learn from consumers’ new habits post-pandemic, and how is that already impacting the UX regarding deliveries and returns?
The Rise of Digital Window Shopping
A quarter of consumers return between 5 and 15 per cent of all the items they purchase online, which is one of the more conservative estimates. There’s a variety of reasons for this trend, not least the fact that it’s hard to judge the quality and fit of certain products when online shopping. Notably, this statistic sharply rises when customers are effectively ‘window shopping’ from the comfort of their own homes.
For example, when it comes to fashion, a consumer may buy three different sizes of the same item or three outfits for one event, intending to try them all and choose a favourite. The return rate shoots up for such purchases; it’s a whole new level of stock management and returns processing.
Some retailers are choosing to walk into the ‘£7bn storm’ –consider the Amazon Prime Wardrobe service. It allows customers to select eight items, receive them, try them before returning any they don’t like, before finally being charged for the items they keep. We must ask, would we have imagined a service like this ten years ago? Or would it have been considered too high risk? Which is the higher risk move now, to ignore the demand for these services or embrace them?
Alongside this trend, the demand for swift deliveries and return options naturally grew. Of course, specific retail sectors were impacted more by this shift than others; according to the IMRG Quarterly Benchmark Q4 2020, women’s clothing has the highest average returns rate at 23 per cent, with footwear closely following, coming in at 20 per cent. Therefore, we must also consider what retailers can do to ensure deliveries and returns are as simple as ever for customers.
Customers Demand a Smooth Returns Experience
Returns remain a difficult and inconvenient part of the online shopping journey for many – with research InPost conducted finding that 83% of people who shop online say retailers should do more to make the returns process as easy and fuss-free as possible. Meanwhile, 86% say that a poor returns experience will put them off shopping with a retailer again*, highlighting the critical importance of retailers getting returns right.
- Parcel Lockers
With returns now a crucial part of the customer experience, innovations such as lockers can play a central role in driving customer lifetime value and giving retailers a competitive advantage. Available 24/7 and positioned at convenient locations such as supermarkets, train stations and petrol forecourts, lockers offer people a genuinely convenient and easily accessible way to return online purchases as part of their daily routine — be it during their daily commute or while meeting a friend for coffee.
InPost’s Instant Returns solution is the first of its kind where there is no need for the customer to print out a label at all — not at home nor at the drop-off point — customers can simply scan and drop. With labels being replaced by QR codes, it means it is completely self-service, giving online shoppers ultimate control and convenience, with the whole process taking as little as 10 seconds to complete.
- In-Store Returns
There is a straightforward solution if your business has brick and mortar stores and an online presence. Allowing customers to return items in-store when they have purchased items online could be a significant advantage. This is because 62 per cent of shoppers are more likely to buy things online when they know this is an option. Moreover, it can lead to increased footfall instore and, therefore, increased sales.
- Postal Returns
Perhaps the best-known method here (and cause of queues at the local post office!) is postal returns. Most retailers now allow customers to print off their return labels at home and take them to a local post office/selected convenience store or have the label printed in-store.
Steps are being taken by some retailers, such as Next, to make postal returns even more convenient by utilising the delivery vans that stop at our houses or a neighbours’ houses almost daily. It allows the customer to return items from their doorstep. Delivery services are now being used as tools for returns, a clear example of a UX focus.
All of the above is great, but we must also consider the customer experience element. Here are some thoughts on what should supplement the above.
- Excellent self-serve tools.
Customers are happy to do things for you; in fact, 40% of customers now prefer self-serve over human contact. They are often happy to arrange their returns, collect items, and check status updates on their order. They’ll even chat to a bot. So, it’s important for CX that retailers recognise this and then deliver the tools that allow the customer to do exactly what they need to.
- A knowledgeable customer service team.
As we all know, irrespective of how innovative your organisation may be and how easy your delivery and returns processes are, there are always situations whereby your customers will want to talk to you. Therefore, the customer service team must know your processes so they can firstly relate and understand the customer and then solve the issue. This can be a difficult task given the options available. Still, through extensive training and support and knowledge bases, your customer service team should be able to provide the final touches to your delivery and returns processes.
* All figures, unless otherwise indicated, are based on a survey of just over 2,000 UK adults conducted by Opinium on behalf of InPost from 25 February-1 March 2021.