Seventy-seven percent of consumers expect to return a portion of their gifts this holiday season, according to a survey of more than 15,000 consumers conducted by Oracle Retail. To make their returns, 65% of respondents said they'd go to the store, while 32% said they'd return items by mail, according to the report, which was emailed to Retail Dive.
Nearly 20% of respondents said they expect to return more than half of their presents. Gen Z plans to return the most gifts this year. "Retailers need to seize the moment when shoppers return gifts. The traffic generated by holiday returns holds significant opportunity for retailers to build better customer profiles and generate new opportunities for engagement by personalizing the returns experience," Jeff Warren, vice president of retail solutions management at Oracle Retail, said in a statement.
The report also shares survey findings about those same consumer's holiday shopping habits. Seventy-five percent of consumers said they would shop in store, with 55% saying they'll shop online and ship items to their home address.
While returns have a reputation for being a hassle for consumers and retailers alike, brands have an opportunity to recover some of them. In a survey last year, supply chain solutions firm Voxware found that 95% of shoppers said the ease of the returns process influences whether they'll shop with that retailer again. Oracle's report recommends retailers focus on arming their associates with both knowledge and technology to meet customers' needs when they make a return, in order to save the sale or upsell at the returns counter.
The report emphasizes the role physical stores play, both when it comes to holiday shopping and also in managing returns. According to Oracle, Gen Z and millennials (25% and 30%, respectively) said they prefer to use buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), while only 14% of baby boomers preferred the same. That finding tracks with a previous survey from parcel locker provider Package Concierge, which found that 58% of Gen Z shoppers have used BOPIS. Among the top reasons for choosing BOPIS, respondents of that survey said they wanted their items faster than online shipping would provide, and they wanted to make sure the item was available before they went to the store.
With a reported 20% of returns taking place during the holiday season, that puts pressure on retailers to ensure they can meet customer expectations at both ends of the transaction. While shoppers may have turned to online retailers for their fast shipping and free returns, the process of returning items by mail doesn't lend itself to the immediate gratification that an in-store return can provide. If consumers can make returns at a physical store and pick up items that better suit them in the same trip, retailers have a better chance at fostering loyalty that can serve them well past the holiday season.