It seems obvious that a return/exchange policy is necessary. You never know if something will stand up to your expectations; as a customer, knowing the return policy is a bit like an escape route. You hope that you won’t, but should you need it, you want to know where the exits are and how to access them.
But, while serving the customer, ultimately, the biggest winner is the business: “return policies have [become] as much a marketing tool as a retail standard,” — NYTimes
Well, overall, a return policy is design to maximize profits. And, perhaps surprisingly, there are several ways to earn this result.
Obviously, the ideal is that customers would buy only what they want, and be pleased with the product! Maximizing that is, of course, a priority; but, there is more to it.
The rate of returns for online shopping is higher than "bricks-and-mortar" stores, and this is especially true for clothing & shoe categories. We will continue to see more and more "fit guides" and special apps to determine correct fit; it's worth it for retailers to develop tools that will help us shoppers get it right the first time.
Sometimes, a retailer will have limitations on what can be returned (like, no returns for items on sale) or online, items that might require a "restocking fee". These limits may deter someone who is on the fence from returning.
While an increased scope (i.e. what you can return) increases returns, the opposite is true for timeline: the longer the window to return, the less likely a customer is to return it! A University of Texas-Dallas study found that if a return window is longer (more like 90 days, instead of say, 5 days), the rate of returns goes down. Customers get used to having the thing around, they forget about it, or at a point just can't be bothered.
The right return policy can not only deter returns, but actually increase sales: a psychological trick that we don't anticipate at all!
If you think, I can always return this, it waaay lowers the barrier to buying it. Why not just go for it now becomes the mantra of store & customer alike. But is there truly such a thing as a hassle-less return? Do we really account for our time, energy, gas, and other activities we could be doing? Do we account for our own affinities & motivations?
One friend I have is delighted to run errands and has no problem with purchasing goods only to return them later. But me? No thanks. Dragging me back to a store to return an item takes A LOT, and if it is a lower price, I often put it off until it is too late or I just don't care anymore.
Online retailers are working hard to find truly low-hassle solutions for returns, to create the best of both worlds. Some clothing stores or big operators will include return labels and even account for returns when designing their packaging, so that it can be re-used on the way back.
Separating the returns counter from the checkout means that bright-eyed customers with their wallets open do not have to rub shoulders with disgruntled people returning the very thing they might plan on purchasing.
If the checkout process is swift & easy, the only memory you will likely have (regarding how it would be to return something) is that quick & efficient process. The reality — if you've ever been to the Best Buy exchange line, you know — is not quite the same!
Next week, we'll explore what it looks like from the customer side: how do we make choices to set ourselves up well in case a product purchase is a mistake, and how to advocate for ourselves if things go awry. See you then!
The Enneagram is super popular right now as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. I am familiar with the Enneagram and while it hasn’t been a particularly impactful tool for me personally, I value the depth of the insight and the common language it provides.
Similarly, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework provides definition and a vernacular to what is already present in ourselves. For me, this one has resounded like a deafening gong in my ears & in my life!
Over the last year or so, I've made a conscious priority to read books written by — or written from the perspective of — people different than me. As a white, rich person (and I have a job, a bachelor's degree, a house, 2 cars, and 3 computers, so that sounds pretty rich to me; maybe not in the 1%, but high enough), I have a pretty limited perspective. Also, our culture is essentially designed for me to thrive, so it's easy to take that all for granted.
Books, both non-fiction and creative stories, have a way of landing you right in the viewpoint of an other, and I am so grateful for that gift; it's one of the best things about reading.
Conversations about money can be awkward, but having uncomfortable talks, at age appropriate times, will set up our children's essential, lifelong skill in handling money well. Allowance is a key tool to teaching these money management skills.
Money, along with politics and religion, is often considered impolite conversation to have outside of yourself & maybe (hopefully?) your spouse. How much do we spend on groceries, gas bill, or date nights? Is this car payment normal? We are often afraid, or at least reluctant, to compare any of these details… R. Paul Stevens said the proverbial fig leaf from the Garden of Eden has moved from our naked bodies to our bank accounts!
Add kids into these conversations, and there is an additional layer of hesitancy: kids can be notorious loud-mouths!