Let’s get digital (with returns)
Image caption: “photo taken from behind of a senior citizen sitting in their home office using a computer to print out a return label. the printer sits on their desk next to the computer.” Artwork by DALL-E / Courtesy OpenAI, edited by Pitney Bowes.
What’s black, white, and red all over in the ecommerce world? A return policy.
Our first BOXpoll topic of the year came to us from one of our clients, an apparel brand whose target demographic is women age 45+. The client was concerned that if they stopped providing a return label in the box and instead required customers to go online to print a label, their customers would grab their pitchfork and leave without a second glance.
When we tested that hypothesis with our trusty BOXpoll survey pool, we found that 72% of consumers and GenXers (and 80% of Baby Boomers!) don’t mind printing return labels. We’re sharing the results in hopes that other DTC ecommerce brands with similar dilemmas can breathe their own sigh of relief.
- More than half of all consumers have completed a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) before. Another quarter have not, but are familiar with the process.
- Shoppers with household income over $100K are most familiar with the RMA process—likely because brands with higher average order values (AOVs) are more likely to use RMAs.
- Parents, who we know buy more online than average, are also well-acquainted with the process.
- Other than having a return label in the box with their original order—an option that’s growing increasingly rare as online retailers dial up returns friction amid higher costs and right margins—going online to print a return label is the overall most preferred option among GenXers and Baby Boomers (and consumers overall).
- Gen Z and Millennials—many of whom don’t have or don’t want to use printers—slightly prefer a printerless QR option over going online to print a label.
- Options where a retailer doesn’t provide a physical label are all the same to Gen Z.
- Millennials, who are often busy juggling our responsibilities at work and caring for others at home, are the most open to QR codes, which allow them to start a return from their phone while standing in line at a drop-off location.
- Nobody—not even Baby Boomers—wants a shipping label mailed to them. We suspect this has to do with the extra time this process adds to the wait for a refund.
If you had no other option...
A closer look at the demographics:
- Many GenZers, and to a lesser degree, Millennials, remain unfamiliar/uncomfortable with printing return labels online. However, most consumers—especially Gen X and Baby Boomers—don’t mind going online to print labels. Our advice to retailers (especially with older target demos): Don’t believe the hype about seniors being unable and unwilling to wrangle with online returns processes. The complaints about RMAs are from a vocal minority.
- Contacting customer service for a return label is much more annoying to consumers (especially if they have to wait for a label to be mailed to them) than using an RMA process to print a shipping label.
BOXpoll™ by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture, and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult // 2200 US consumers surveyed October 2022. © Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.