The experience of returning a product — particularly when much of the process can be handled via smartphone — is becoming nearly as important as the buying experience, based on research published by SOTI Inc.
The Mississauga, Ont.-based provider of mobility software commissioned Arlington Research to conduct online interviews with 6,000 consumers in eight markets between December and January for From Bricks to Clicks: State of Mobility in Retail 2021 Report.
According to the global results of the research, 63 per cent consumers said they would like the returns process to be easier, preferably automated. There was also a direct correlation between improved CX and revenue, however, were 59 per cent of consumers said they would buy more Christmas gifts from a store if the returns experience was easier.
“When they are under pressure, whether online or in-store, customers want a high quality and tailored experience. But they also want maximum simplicity and convenience. We can expect these trends to spill over from the holiday experience into the rest of the year,” the report’s authors said.
Even once they enhance and simplify the ability to return products, the research also suggested consumers are looking for more technology options as part of the in-store experience.
Almost a third, or 31 per cent, of consumers said they would like sales associates to use mobile devices that allow them to purchase items on the sales floor instead of at the cash register, the report said. Twenty-four per cent said handheld or cart-mounted devices to check inventory availability and pricing would provide a better in-store experience.
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Not surprisingly given its core mission, SOTI’s report recommends retailers make greater use of mobile technology as part of their CX response to COVID-19 and changing consumer expectations. (Note: I have provided content marketing services to SOTI in the past but they are not currently a client).
The race to make up lost revenue since the pandemic began means click-and-collect and contactless options are a no-brainer, but it’s worth highlighting the importance of product returns since they could easily get overlooked in the customer journey.
One thing to keep in mind is what it will take for consumers to equip themselves as part of a more mobile-oriented retail experience. A different research study that was recently put out by a consultancy called heady.io that showed 91 per cent of consumers hate installing mobile apps as a requirement of doing business.
This study wasn’t only focused on the retail sector, but it shows that companies will have to tread carefully as they introduce more technology into shopping.
It would be interesting to see, for example, if there might be a few apps that would manage processes like ordering and returns for multiple retailers, rather than having each one create its own bespoke apps. This could possibly be an extension of payment apps like Apple Pay in the future, perhaps. The point is that digitizing areas like product returns won’t improve the experience if the process of accessing those options is seen as a necessary evil.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.