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Serial Returner: The Next Frontier Of Online Shoppers

March 10, 2020 Erin Sweeney

Shutterstock_376175107 High Angle View Of Young Woman Shopping Online With Credit Card On Laptop

Shopping and returning items are consumer behaviors that have gone hand in hand for decades, and this practice also exists in online shopping. In the U.S., return deliveries are estimated to cost $550 billion by 2020. Many consumers expect generous return policies, consistent and accurate shipping updates and simple exchanges as part of online stores’ frictionless experiences. To limit losses from returns, online retailers are establishing strategies to better classify and address customers who regularly return products.

Serial Returning Is Common Among Online Retail Shoppers

A serial returner is a customer that purchases and later returns many products. A serial returner may be a serial buyer, and a profitable customer. According to eMarketer, the habit of consistent buying and returning could indicate a customer has a strong connection and feeling of comfortability with a brand.

Serial returning is a common behavior among consumers in the online retail clothing market. By eliminating the try-on experience, the probability of a clothing return increases. But, serial returning to online retailers may be a direct result of consumers engaging with the products differently than they do throughout the traditional in-store shopping experience. Try-and-return could be an adaptation of the try-then-buy shopping style, empowering consumers to adjust the online shopping experience to match what they typically have in store. 

In fact in their 2018 State Of Returns: Consumer Report, the online customer experience platform Navar reported that more than half of customers who make returns online exchange their original purchases with other items. Some shoppers who make frequent returns are attempting to replicate the experience they have in a physical store. Impulse shopping may also be a contributing factor to serial returning because consumers purchased more than they could afford or more than they needed. Regardless of the motivation, based on positive experiences, 96% of consumers surveyed by Navar would shop with the same retailer again after returning an online purchase. 

Creating A Positive Online Shopping Experience Is A Combination Of Understanding How To Decrease Returns And Making The Return Process Simple

Shutterstock_1006919041 young woman received online shopping parcel opening boxes and buying fashion items by using credit card

The cost of returns can be significant to online retailers. Because eliminating the possibility of returns is restrictive to consumers, online retail marketers should strive to understand why items are being returned. Improving information on products including providing better images, improved sizing charts, videos and augmented reality experiences, could result in a decrease in returns and an overall improvement in the online shopping experience.

But, many ecommerce clothing retailers acknowledge that returns are part of the online shopping experience and have made returning items an easy and free process. To retain and acquire new customers, while remaining competitive, online retailers will likely continue embracing the trend of serial returning as an opportunity to convert a shopper into a profitable customer.

A better understanding of return data can help online retail marketers analyze their return processes. Establishing positive return processes is an opportunity to create additional positive customer engagement points.

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About the Author

Erin Sweeney

Erin Sweeney is a freelance writer and professional educator. Throughout her 12 years of experience in secondary education, she has taught advanced composition, business communications and research methodology. Erin has a keen interest in psychology and the science of motivation. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature from Saint Anselm College and a Master’s in Education from Plymouth State University. Through research and writing, Erin contributes to DMS Insights with informative articles surrounding the digital and performance marketing industries.

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