A new survey released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) shows that consumers need more information before the sale in order to reduce product returns. On average, 7 percent of products sold to consumers at the retail level, representing U.S. $6.7 billion in manufacturer-to-dealer sales in 2002, are returned to either retailers or manufacturers.
The most common reasons cited for returning these products were that, "the product was broken" or "it did not work like I thought it would." However, with the product defect rate for consumer electronics at less than four percent, many of these returns are not actually due to faulty products, but rather "operator error," meaning that the consumers did not know enough about their product to operate it properly. In the cases where a product actually did fail, nearly half of consumers (48 percent) purchased a replacement product.
According to consumers, getting more information about products, either before purchase or at the point of sale, will help reduce return rates. Of those surveyed, 20 percent said consumers should do more research before making a purchase. Better pre-sale information from sales staff (16 percent) and more informative in-store displays (14 percent) also were cited as ways to reduce returns.
While the majority of buyers are satisfied overall with return processes, a significant number of consumers are expressing frustration with industry polices. Nearly 60 percent of consumers surveyed said they were satisfied with the return process, compared to 78 percent in 2000. Survey respondents cited higher dissatisfaction rates because 1) there is a perceived higher volume of returns; 2) it seems to take longer to get a product returned; and 3) consumers feel returns policies are becoming more restrictive.
By product category, in-car electronics had the highest rate of return (11 percent) with audio products having the lowest rate (5 percent). Eight percent of communications products, seven percent of video products and 6 percent of PC/video game products were returned.
The "Return Rates and Issues" survey was conducted via telephone interview to a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults during September 2002. The complete study is available free to CEA member companies. Non-members may purchase the study for $499 by visiting www.eBrain.org or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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