Holiday Humbug: What Leads To Returns, And How Email Can Help

Christmas is on Dec. 25. And the returns begin pouring in on Dec. 26, if not before. What causes this annual stress for online retailers? 

Among the people returning products to Amazon, 34% are doing it because the size or color was incorrect. But that number jumps to 46% for other retailers, according to The State of Online Returns: A Global Study, a paper by Narvar, provider of a customer experience platform.  

In addition, 21% of the Amazon returns and 15% of those to other online sellers are because the item was damaged or no longer functional.

In other findings, 14% of Amazon returns are due to the fact that the item wasn’t as depicted in the description or product photos. And this accounts for 12% of the returns to other retailers. 

That aside, most consumers find the return process easy — that includes 67% in the U.S., 63% in the UK and 58% in Germany and 52% in Australia.

The most unhappy returners are in France, where only 49% say the return process is easy.



However, only 45% of new customers overall find the return experience easy. And in the U.S., only 57% of gift recipients are happy with the experience, and even fewer—47% — in the UK.

Email is an important part of the process. In the U.S., 35% of consumers expect to see the return policy in an email. 

Of course, even more, at 53%, want to see it on a return policy page. But the percentages are similar in most countries, with 33% in the UK expecting to see return policies in an email, 30% in France, 29% in Germany and 28% in Australia.

This finding spells opportunity for brands with solid transactional email programs in place. They can upsell, cross-sell and achieve many of the things they want to do with cart abandonment emails. 

Moreover, email is the perfect channel for reporting on refund status, or for alerting gift-givers that an item was returned. In each instance, retailers can use email to provide an excellent customer experience. And they can even use email to convert gift returners into customers. 

One thing is certain — brands can’t afford mistakes. The study shows that 13% of consumers in the U.S. and 12% in the UK will churn after a bad experience. That figure jumps to 17% in France and 23% in Australia. Worse, 31% of new customers overall are prepared to bolt when they’re unhappy. 

The U.S. has the heaviest concentration of online shoppers and Amazon Prime members.

Narvar surveyed 3,519 consumers, each of whom had returned at least one online purchase in the past year. Five countries were represented — the U.S., UK, France, Germany and Australia. 

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