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Many businesses have ecommerce capabilities, but most need to improve the consumer experience surrounding return transactions. This may be expected following the rapid growth of online sales and omnichannel returns during 2020 and 2021.

Retailers often treat the returns process as a separate, inconvenient afterthought, but they are not stand-alone transactions. Returns are an essential part of your CX. They provide opportunities to “wow” and build loyalty with your consumers through standout features and frictionless, shopper-friendly experiences.

So, what is it that makes a retailer’s omnichannel returns experience outstanding today?

To answer this question, the research company Incisiv designed the Omnichannel Returns Digital Maturity Index. The company gathered data on 100 top retailers (based on annual revenue). These retailers were from nine retail segments: Apparel Basic (20), Apparel Luxury (8), Consumer Electronics (6), Department Stores (10), General Merchandise (10), Grocery (10), Health & Beauty (10), Home Improvement (8), Other Specialty (18). Incisiv then evaluated them on 55 “foundational” and “differentiating” omnichannel returns capabilities.

  • Foundational capabilities include basic experiences that consumers have come to expect from online shopping, like having a return policy visible on the website, the ability to buy-online-return-in-store (BORIS), and the availability of product ratings and reviews.
  • Differentiating capabilities include more sophisticated, flexible, and personalized experiences, such as a longer return window, the ability to return without an invoice, the option to schedule a meeting with a brand professional, UPS drop-off, free shipping, and product comparison tools.

Returns are an essential part of your CX. They provide opportunities to “wow” and build loyalty with your consumers through standout features and frictionless, shopper-friendly experiences.

The assessment divided results into four categories—Leaders, Challengers, Followers, and Laggards. The 100 businesses ranked as follows:

  • 14 Leaders
  • 37 Challengers
  • 30 Followers
  • 19 Laggards

incisiv report 2022 - retailer digital maturity curve
Leaders have the maximum digital maturity within and across retail segments. They anticipate their consumers’ needs and provide an elevated and fine-tuned consumer experience using personalization and flexibility. Leaders have the highest adoption of foundational capabilities and the highest adoption of differentiators.

Challengers have a solid base of foundational capabilities and a seamless digital maturity. They offer some differentiated consumer experiences but tend to lack the depth and coverage of the leaders. Challengers have a high adoption of foundational capabilities and a medium adoption of differentiators.

Followers provide the majority of the foundational experiences and have a basic level of digital maturity. But they trail behind on differential experiences. Followers have a medium to high adoption of foundational capabilities, and they score low on the adoption of differentiating capabilities.

Laggards are behind the curve in all categories of digital maturity. They offer some basic foundational capabilities, but they provide no differential experiences. Laggards have medium foundational adoption and low differential adoption.

Who are the omnichannel leaders?

The companies that came out on top (listed in alphabetical order) were: Apple, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Nike, Nordstrom, Sephora, Staples, Target, The Home Depot, and Under Armour.

No company received a perfect score, showing that there is universal room for improvement.

Are you surprised by these results? Perhaps more surprising are the household brands that are not on this list. This implies that even the largest retailers are still working hard to adapt to the changes in consumer demands and operational processes. No company received a perfect score, showing that there is universal room for improvement. Fortunately, digital tools and research, such as this by Incisiv, can assist you in identifying gaps. To read the study and get tips on improving your company’s omnichannel returns digital maturity, download a copy here.

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Author

Leslie Nienaber, Digital Marketing Specialist, Appriss Retail 

Leslie researches business trends and distills the information for a retail audience. Her marketing experience has covered a wide variety of industries, including promotional products, microbiology, print, and mail. She spent five years in the retail industry before graduating with her Bachelors in Business Administration from John Carroll University.

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