Many happy returns?

Feb 01, 2006 10:30 PM  By

Consumers are not only getting comfortable with the task of e-tailing, they are happier and more willing to return items purchased online, according to The Last Mile Supply Chain Center at Michigan State University.

In fact, making the returns process easy and straightforward is key to building and maintaining customer loyalty, says Kenneth Boyer, director of the center. As proof, he points to a recent study released by the center that examined responses from 464 customers who’d returned items to 1-800-PetMeds,,, eBags, or Office Depot in November and December.

“Online retailers need to view returns as a key component of consumer marketing rather than as an annoying disturbance in the supply chain,” Boyer says. “The results of the study clearly show that retailers that handle returns smoothly and make the process relatively easy gain business in the long run. Customers compare different retailers based on their experiences, and a positive or negative experience can make or break a retailer.”

Among the survey’s findings:

  • Customers were generally “very satisfied” with the instructions for returns, the convenience, and the overall process, but there was considerable variability from company to company.

  • Customers received confirmation that the merchants had received their returns anywhere from 2.51 and 6.84 days after they’d shipped the returns. it took from 5.54 to 10.34 days to receive credit, and from 1.61 to 11.15 days to receive replacement products.

  • There was a strong relationship between customer effort and the likelihood of that customer making future purchases from that retailer. As customers perceive less effort to be needed in making a return, they were much more likely to make future purchases.