Voxware Research Indicates That Returns Process Remains Flawed

24% of consumers report receiving an incorrect item for a second time
after already returning an incorrect order

a leading provider of cloud-based solutions for distribution operations,
today released research highlighting why consumers return items
purchased online or by phone and how their experiences with the returns
process affects their future intentions to shop with retailers. The
results of the third biennial report, which surveyed more than 500
consumers, demonstrate the increased importance of the returns process
in consumer purchasing decisions as well as the impact that shipping
incorrect orders has on consumer loyalty. Highlights from the survey

  • 96.8% agree that how well an online retailer handles returns
    influences whether they will decide to order items from them again in
    the future
  • 36.2% prefer to return items purchased online or by phone with a
    prepaid mailing label and 44.9% prefer in-store returns
  • 24.0% stated that a retailer has sent them an incorrect item for a
    second time after returning an item that was sent in error
  • 60.3% of those who received an incorrect order twice said they are
    unlikely to shop with that retailer again for future purchases
  • 28.4% expect retailers to replace item(s) shipped in error with the
    correct item(s) in 2 days or less
  • 37.7% expect compensation (such as a discount, coupon, or credit) from
    the retailer when they receive the wrong item or when an item arrives
  • 45.5% are likely or very likely to share their negative experiences
    about a product and/or retailer online if a delivery is late or the
    wrong item is received

“Companies that want to deliver a superior customer experience and
achieve greater brand loyalty must understand the importance of both
inbound and outbound distribution operations in the customer
decision-making process,” said Keith Phillips, President and CEO,
Voxware. “Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming evidence that the
returns process affects future buying decisions, this research exposes
the gaps many companies still have in their distribution operations. By
failing to close these gaps with technology solutions that deliver
essential supply chain information exactly when and where it is needed,
companies will continue to disappoint customers with late and incorrect

Consumers Consider Returns Process When Making Purchasing Decisions
of the most striking findings from this research is that 96.8% of
consumers agreed that how well an online retailer handles returns
influences whether they will order items from that retailer in the
future. This finding cements the fact that, regardless of brand
recognition or reputation, nearly all consumers consider what will
happen if they need to return an item before they even complete a

Unfortunately, the survey found that many consumers still suffer from
outbound distribution operations processes that lead to an abundance of
retailer errors:

  • 23.2% noted that 10% or more of the items they return are because of
    retailer error
  • 31.4% stated they had received an item that was correct but was the
    incorrect size or color
  • 21.5% stated they had received the incorrect item altogether
  • 20.0% specified they return items received from large retailers more
    frequently compared to purchases from small retailers

“Disappointing customers with a negative returns experience today may
lead to a loss of business and lower customer lifetime value in the
future. The fact that retailer errors remain such a prominent driver of
returns means that many companies lack the distribution operations
processes and technology to get the right product to the right
customer,” said Phillips. “Companies that use a tool like Voxware’s
multimodal voice automation not only improve fulfillment accuracy to
above 99.9% but also improve their ability to execute returns and manage
inbound distribution.”

Even With Perfect Accuracy, Companies Still Need to Prepare for

Respondents also noted a myriad of other reasons for
returning items purchased online or by phone:

  • 35.2% stated that the item was correct but did not like the item once
    seeing it in-person
  • 34.5% stated that the item was correct but poor quality
  • 12.8% stated that the item was correct but arrived late
  • 36.0% stated that the item was damaged or showed signs of previous use

Regardless of the reason for the return, the overall preferences noted
by consumers points to the demand for omnichannel returns capabilities
and the need for retailers to be able to manage inventory levels and
track items across in-store and online channels. When respondents were
asked about their return channel preferences, they were divided in their
responses. When items are delivered to consumers by mail, 36.2% noted a
preference to return purchases through the mail via prepaid label while
44.9% reported a preference for making in-store returns.

Returning for a Second Chance
When errors do occur and
consumers receive an incorrect item, the survey found that they expect
the retailer to replace the item(s) quickly. 28.4% of consumers expect
to receive the correct item in 2 days or less and 72.8% expect the
correct item in 4 days or less. These results demonstrate an increase in
expected speed over previous years.

Surprisingly, the survey results also indicate that many retailers fail
to ship the correct item even when given a second chance. 24.0% of
consumers stated that they have received the incorrect item for a second
time after returning an item. This figure represents a 25% increase in
the number of occurrences compared to survey results from 2014. However,
what may be the most telling result is the fact that 7.4% of consumers
did not reorder from retailers who initially shipped an incorrect item
and instead requested a refund. Furthermore, of those who received an
incorrect order twice, 60.3% said that they are unlikely to shop with
that retailer again for future purchases.

The Lasting Impact of Errors
Additional survey findings
revealed that the financial impact of botched returns is not limited to
increased shipping and logistics costs or long-term brand damage. When
asked about whether they expect compensation (i.e. discount, coupon,
credit, etc.) from the retailer when they receive the wrong item and/or
an item arrives late many consumers made their expectations known that
retailers should provide compensation of some kind:

  • 37.7% expect compensation for both late and wrong items
  • 27.2% expect compensation only when the wrong item is received
  • 9.1% expect compensation only when item arrives late

Similarly, the detrimental impact on a brand’s reputation is not limited
to a single consumer. When asked how likely they were to share their
negative experiences about a late delivery or incorrect shipment on
social media, customer review sites, or other public forums, 45.5% of
consumers reported they are likely or very likely to share their
negative experiences with an additional 29.3% indicating that they were
at least somewhat likely to take the same course of action.

“This research shows that retailers need to focus equally on outbound
and inbound operations in order to exceed consumer expectations,” said
Phillips. “Mistakes in distribution operations are still too common, and
the result is a negative lasting impact on customer loyalty, reputation,
and the bottom line. Retailers can no longer afford to lag behind and
must optimize the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of distribution
operations with tools such as multimodal voice and predictive analytics
to avoid being left behind. The time for retailers to optimize their
distribution operations is now.”

About Voxware

Voxware helps organizations with teams who are on the move to more
effectively receive, act on, and communicate information critical to
their work. Our hands-free voice solutions enable employees to safely
and accurately speed through tasks, thereby boosting operational
productivity and improving customer experiences. What’s more, Voxware
easily adapts to changes in technology and processes, enabling
organizations to quickly address shifting demands without disruptions to
the operation. Our innovative approach to voice communication has proven
to help our customers increase profitability by cutting costs and
enhancing brand loyalty. For more information, please visit www.voxware.com.


Sean Teaford, 215-644-6502