Introducing: Returnament 2022

Amid all-time-high return rates, we created a competition to find the best balance between returns convenience…and just enough friction

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines, because the 2022 BOXpoll Returnament kicks off now! While our previous BOXpoll reporting has delved into online shoppers’ preferred returns methods, this new series will evaluate the best balance of convenience and friction for retailers.

With online shopping at a historic high, ecommerce return rates are higher than ever—an average of 20.8% in 2021 versus 18.1% in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail. And according to our inaugural BOXpoll retailer survey, those returns are costing online retailers in the US an average of 21% of order value. Costs varied significantly across the retailers surveyed, with many paying much more than the median.

Returns re eating into retailer costs

It’s no wonder that more than two-thirds of the retailers we surveyed say they are trying to do something to lower their returns transportation and processing costs.

Starting next month, we will be using a point system to find the retailer gold standard: returns options that are structured enough to reduce returns and help contain costs—but not so much that it leaves shoppers with a scorched earth policy for the brand.

Our first round will feature consumer responses—measured in likelihood to keep the item, and likelihood to shop with that retailer again—to all the different flavors of pickup and drop-off:

  • Scheduled and unscheduled carrier pickup
  • Dropping off at brick-and-mortar stores (both original-purchase retailers and different retailers accepting returns)
  • Dropping off at staffed retail kiosks (for example, Happy Returns)
  • Dropping off at the post office, as well as major carrier stores
  • Dropping off at unstaffed lockers (like Amazon Hubs) and unstaffed dropboxes (blue postal boxes or carrier-branded dropboxes)

Future rounds will evaluate additional returns strategies in many retailers’ mixes. For instance, do printerless options risk opening the returns floodgates? What kind of Return Material Authorization (RMA) processes discourage returns without harming brand perception? Is offering instant store credit as an alternative to a delayed refund an effective strategy?  And is there a world in which the consumer will cover the cost of return shipping and come back for future orders? (Our hypothesis: Yes, if the cost of shipping is deducted from a refund rather than a direct charge.)

Check back on the blog soon for the official results from Round 1 of the 2022 BOXpoll Returnament.

BOXpoll™ by Pitney Bowes, a weekly survey on current events, culture, and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Cipher // 168 US online retailers surveyed February 2022. © Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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