After testing during the 2021 holiday season, reverse logistics vendor Narvar Inc. will expand a service that lets retail consumers schedule a courier to pick up returned purchases from their homes.
In a statement, Narvar said more than 70 retailers, including women’s apparel merchant Ann Taylor and shoe retailer DSW Inc., used its Home Pickup service since it rolled out in November. The statement said those retailers reported high customer satisfaction scores from customers using the service. The statement added that items got back to retailer warehouses 25% faster than other return methods.
Ann Taylor is part of Ascena Retail Group, No. 47 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000. DSW is No. 81 in the Top 1000.
The service is currently available in 10 major metropolitan markets in the United States. Narvar plans to expand to 100 additional metropolitan markets over the next few months, ensuring virtually nationwide coverage.
Consumers using Home Pickup can schedule a courier pickup of their returned items for a fee set by the retailers. As with other return methods, customers print a return label and pack their purchases. But instead of dropping off the return at a store or with a common carrier like the United States Postal Service or United Parcel Service, customers can call a courier who then hands off the returned items to the appropriate shipping carrier.
Consumers like easy returns
Narvar’s service taps into a trend in the retail business. In recent years, retailers have worked to give customers more options for returning their purchases. For example, Target Corp. (No. 6 in the Top 1000) said it would begin accepting returns at curbside as part of its Drive Up service.
Other retailers making returns easier include the online shoe brand Rothy’s (No. 242) and Draper James, a women’s apparel brand, each of which works with returns vendor Happy Returns. That vendor operates Return Bars kiosks, where consumers can send back purchases from participating online retailers. In 2017, Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) began letting customers return products at some Kohl’s Corp. stores.
Retailers seek to make returns less painful because it can make the difference between making a sale or losing a potential customer. In a January survey of 1,108 online retailers by Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights, consumers cited free return shipping (60%) and straightforward, easy return policy (46%) among the top five retailer policies likely to encourage them to buy. In the same survey, 9% of respondents said they had abandoned an online shopping cart because the retailer’s return policy was unclear.
According to a Narvar study released last year, 96% of shoppers who rated their return experience well said they would shop with that retailer again.
Return costs rise
While consumers increasingly demand easy, generous return policies, the costs to retailers continue to rise. A National Retail Federation survey of 57 retailers conducted in late 2021 found that 45% of responding merchants saw their return volumes increase significantly (26%) or slightly (19%) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Optoro Inc., a reverse-logistics provider, says it costs an average of $33 (or 66% of the price of a $50 item) for retailers to process a return in 2021 — up from 59% year over year.