Amazon’s New Return Policies Give Brick & Mortar a New Life


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It finally happened! It could be a watershed moment for retailers, but more importantly for the consumer. How so?  The old adage, measure twice, cut once.  Consumers can be more thoughtful and precise about how they order and how much.  Amazon’s return policies allowed customers to make returns hassle-free. Now they are internally reviewing this process and cancelling accounts of customers who they say abuse the Amazon return policies. The Wall Street Journal was one of the first periodicals to uncover this policy. While the article didn’t publish any details about Amazon’s return policy nor obtain the percentages of customer “deletions,” I say it’s a good thing for brick & mortar retailers, especially those in the apparel business.

I consider myself a powerful advocate for consumer rights. I think every company should have an empty chair at the table (ironically, it’s Jeff Bezos’ standard operating procedure). But consumers have taken advantage of online retailers.

“In a survey of nearly 700 consumers, Narvar, a retail technology company, found that overall, 40 percent of consumers order more than they intend to buy and ship back the goods that don’t make the cut. When it comes to those shopping for apparel, the number rises to 48 percent.”

I’m not sure that easy returns make total sense. For the company selling the product, those easy returns frequently equate to zero or no profit. A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about Macy’s return policy. It didn’t make sense. Customers could return almost anything without an end date. Macy’s recently changed their return policy to 180 days for most items which is probably still too liberal. I think companies should have a 60 day return policy; a fair amount of time in my opinion. Associates should be empowered to make exceptions, when necessary, after listening to the customer.

According to Instinet analysis led by Simeon Siegal, Inc. may already be the largest apparel retailer and could still grow to sales between $45 billion and $85 billion by fiscal 2020,

While I feel that Amazon’s new (recently disclosed) policy of monitoring returns needs to be carefully executed and fine-tuned instead of just closing a customer’s account with no explanation – that is not customer friendly –  it was bound to happen.  I know there are always consumers who will take major advantage of company’s policies and a negligible percent who border on criminal intent (only kidding).  But, e-commerce companies, especially the giants such as Amazon and Walmart have most definitely encouraged customers to purchase more than they need.

It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Amazon sells more apparel than even Macy’s, it needs to rein in the propensity for consumers to be careless shoppers. The good news is that brick & mortar stores can go back to providing the best avenue for consumers to touch, feel and try on outfits before ever taking out their credit card. An added bonus and equally as important, a sales associate can assist the customer from beginning to end and provide a motive for that customer to return and shop again.

Do you think consumer abuse e-commerce return policies?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Shapiro
Richard R. Shapiro is Founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) and a leading authority in the area of customer satisfaction and loyalty. For 28 years, Richard has spearheaded the research conducted with thousands of customers from Fortune 100 and 500 companies compiling the ingredients of customer loyalty and what drives repeat business. His first book was The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business and The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business was released February, 2016.


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