By Michelle Roberts, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Online shoppers are not going to like a new trend. Some retailers are now cracking down on returns. Magda Walczak is one of the shoppers retailers are now targeting. “I would say about half of the things that I actually buy, I end up returning,” she says.

Online retailers say returns are a big and growing problem, one that costs them hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Retail expert Carol Speickerman says this is a nightmare for the entire e-tailing industry. “The days of using your living room as a fitting room are going to be coming to a close,” she says.

To tease out so called “returnaholics,” retailers are hiring companies which analyze shopping data.

Dominique Levin is with Agilone.

“We look at returns in relation to the profitability of a customer. So for example, if you return 50 items that can be really terrible if you keep one. But, of course, if you return 50 items and end up buying 200 that’s fantastic.”

That is step one for companies looking to curb chronic returning.

Also, some companies are no longer sending coupons to frequent returners. Other retailers are only emailing promotions for certain products. For example, sends likely returners coupons for jewelry, watches and beauty products because those items are less likely to be sent back.

Some companies are even revoking free shipping for certain customers. Experts say restocking fees could also be on the horizon.

“Most stores really would rather have you continue to do business with them rather than their competitors. However, what we do see is stores starting to find ways to perhaps spend less money on you, or find ways to have you return less,” explained Levin.

The good news is that retailers are constantly updating their data.

“Most of the customer profiles that retailers are collecting on all of us get refreshed every single day, so every day is a new day when it comes to return profiles,” added Levin.

Shoppers like Walczak don’t like the change. She doesn’t think, however, that they will change her behavior.

“I’ll be mindful of taking advantage of the offers that I receive, but I don’t think it’s going to make me shop any less or return any less,” said Walczak.

There is a flip side to this trend.

Marketing experts say online retailers are often rewarding shoppers who have a low return rate. They are sending them special offers, coupons, and V.I.P deals.


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