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Generous online returns — and the bliss of free shipping — had lured consumers away from traditional retail towards e-commerce shopping all the way back in the 90s. Today, inconspicuously, the trend's coming to an end. In-store returns of online orders are on the rise, and e-commerce retailers are focused on profitability in 2023.
BORIS is an acronym that stands for Buy Online, Return In-Store. It's an omnichannel strategy that belongs to the same group of 'online-to-offline' shopping experiences as BOPIS — Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store — and ROPIS — Reserve Online, Pick Up In-Store. In other words, it's a service that enables customers to purchase goods online and return in store — all as easy as traditional shopping would be.
E-commerce returns statistics 2023
In May 2023, Swedish online fashion retailer Boozt.com blocked 42,000 customers for returning too many orders, which proved to be economically unsustainable for the company and harmful to the environment. It's not the first online brand to do so, and many retailers are following suit.
Insider Intelligence expects online returns to surpass $620 billion in 2023. On a bright side, it's a modest growth rate of only 2.2% — partly because people returned to stores, and partly because retailers are getting better at minimizing returns through updated policies, innovative software, third-party drop-offs and AI.
In-store returns of products purchased online are soon to become an industry standard, as 47.6% of US retailers — including Walmart, Target, Costco and The Home Depot — report an increase in the in-store return method in the past 12 months. Also, 57.2% claim to take returns more seriously than they did a year ago.
Buy Online, Return In-Store — the solution to poor returns experiences, and more
Then again, if a company's policy allows free and unlimited returns, online buyers take advantage but rarely enjoy the hassle of it. Imagine a complex return process; the need for a return label, packing slip and original packaging; additional fees, and so on.
None of that does much for the customer satisfaction, even for those who like to overindulge into a blank check for returns. Depending on the industry, the cost of acquiring a new customer can be anything from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.
So, what's the best way to create a better delivery experience, nurture customer loyalty, save on shipping costs and possibly reduce carbon emissions associated with online returns? By introducing a BORIS service.
Benefits of a Buy Online, Return In-Store policy
Incentivize online shoppers with free in-store returns and make use of the following opportunities.
Create a better shopping experience with an omnichannel approach
Many retailers are beginning to rely on an omnichannel shopping strategy that works as a strategic advantage in an extremely competitive environment.
Omnichannel means that sales take place on multiple channels — physical shops, online storefronts, social media — in a seamlessly connected, unified experience.
One of the key touchpoints of a unified customer journey is the delivery experience. Online shopping needs to work as easily as buying, returning or exchanging items in a physical store location.
Save on return shipping costs
How to profit from your deliveries and returns despite the economic downturn? Encourage your buyers to return online orders in store.
Some estimates say that online returns cost businesses about 66% of the original item’s price, and e-commerce companies usually shoulder the shipping costs to retain conversion and repeat purchases. Boozt.com reports that 42,000 of their chronic returners represented less than 2% of the total 3 million customers but around 25% of the total return volume. Do the math.
As an alternative, you can offer your customers free in-store returns and have a leeway in justifying online return fees, should buyers still opt for those. Many retailers — including H&M, Zara, IDEAL OF SWEDEN — introduced shipping costs for online returns, and that’s becoming a collective trend.
Boost store foot traffic
Consumers have returned to brick-and-mortar shops post-pandemic, yet the delivery-first era of retail is here to stay. Forbes estimates 20.8% of retail purchases to take place online in 2023, so a boost in-store traffic wouldn't hurt.
When your online buyers enter your physical store to return or exchange an item, they're likely to browse some more and end up making an impulse purchase.
Integrate returns into your on-shelf stock
Offer in-store returns to achieve a better inventory flow without aggressive sales and waste. With a centralized inventory system — meaning your online and brick-and-mortar inventory are connected — you put store returns back on the shelf.
If you have a different inventory system for your offline retail, place returned items on the assigned rack until it goes back to the warehouse or another store.
Offer cross- or upselling in exchange for return
Turn in-store returns into a source of revenue. You may, of course, offer a full refund to the original payment method or issue store credit to be used for exchange or as a voucher.
Though it might be that a shopper will be immediately looking for a more viable option to replace the returned item. When you get to interact with your customers in person, it’s much easier to encourage alternatives in, say, a different size or even upsell a higher-value product.
Increase conversion and customer satisfaction up to the returns process
When shopping online, consumers expect to pay for convenience in the first place. As things stand today, e-commerce focuses on the sale of products per se rather than the delivery experience that consumers equally expect, and returns even less so.
It's all about creating an optimized delivery experience across all stages of the shopping journey, where one touchpoint seamlessly integrates into the next — from product discovery to returns.
Studies show that 92% of consumers would buy again if the return process was easy, and 62% shoppers are more likely to shop online if they can return items in store. In 2022, the majority of US consumers found in-store returns to be easier than online returns.
Reduce the carbon footprint of your logistics
Deliveries aside, product returns are seen as one of the most problematic aspects of sustainable e-commerce today, and rightly so. They're inevitable, especially in the fashion industry where shoppers tend to order and try on multiple sizes or learn the hard way that the items look better in photos than in real-life.
Optimizing your returns can affect your companies whole emission chain and, additionally, prevent overproduction due to low stock availability. By reducing unnecessary returns, Boozt saved around 791 tons of CO2 in 2022, which has eliminated the need for some 600 delivery trucks a year.
Reinvent your return policy with a Buy Online, Return In-Store Service
Not only do omnichannel retail practices like BORIS help you cut expensive shipping costs and streamline your returns process, but also give you an ability to inform environmentally-conscious consumer choices and bring your buyers back for future orders.
With solutions like Ingrid In-Store, your can turn your brick-and-mortar location into e-commerce hubs to offering faster, greener and more flexible deliveries and returns. Book a demo to learn more.