2022 Retail Prediction - Post-Sale Service Will Become A Key Point Of Differentiation

Note: this article is part of our 2022 Retail And Retail Technology Predictions Series.

Post-Sale Service And Returns Announcement Tracker

Buying is not shopping and shopping is more than buying. While 2020 and 2021 were about simplifying buying (cashierless checkout, inventory, BOPIS, eCommerce, etc.), 2022 will return focus to the holistic shopping experience as supply chain woes fade away. And while a lot of focus on shopper experience is on what happens before the transaction in the store - and rightfully so because we have a long way to go - 2022 will shift much more focus to post-sale services.

Turning Returns Headaches Into Sales Generation

We know returns are a growing problem.  Returns are already a margin killing mess for many, and 2021, including the January 2022 processing of returns, will see the highest level of returns we have ever seen.   The economics are a bit scary.  15-40% of online purchases end up being returned, costing $550 billion in 2020. And the cost of reverse logistics is astounding. Reverse logistics costs amount to nearly 60% of the original sales price.
At the same time, a good return process is key for customer loyalty, and 42% say that returns have to be free to be a positive experience, and 33% of repeat shoppers would abandon a retailer if they had a bad return experience.   Returning Amazon packages at Whole Foods is a snap.  No boxing, printing taping, etc.   It’s a really positive experience that generates more Whole Foods visits (I mostly shop at Trader Joe’s).

Returns are a key customer touchpoint, enabling you to direct shopper attention to the next service offering.  According to McKinsey, 57% of retailers are actively working on how to leverage the return journey as a sales opportunity. That’s why Kohl’s decided to process Amazon’s returns.   Good return processes will be key to long-term customer value and interestingly 3 in 4 retailers prioritize having a good returns experience over reducing returns.   But it’s not just about returns. 

Post-Sale Service Offering Expansion

Neiman Marcus has begun offering resale services to its clients, a clever way to help luxury shoppers monetize their existing accessory and apparel collections to spend more money in-store.  Nordstrom Local offers alterations, trunk club services, manicures and personal stylists. Dick’s House Of Sport offers driving range with expert feedback, a wellness center with expert consultations, rock climbing classes, and even offers local teams to use their facilities for team meetups. Is that post-sale experience or just experiential retail? The lines are blurring, but the initial sale can be the point of conversion to a deeper relationship.

But it is not just department stores and higher end category leaders.  Mass retail is getting in on the game. Target is offering personal shopping via Shipt.   Grocers like Hy-Vee and Giant are offering dietician consults. Walmart is offering a slew of post-sale services including insurance, big investments in health and wellness services, cable and mobile service and repairs, and more.

And all of these touchpoints give more opportunities to collect consumer data, enroll them in loyalty and CRM, and further target them after they leave the store. With a focus on unified commerce, these services will prove out great ROI in total value of customer increases and in shopper data acquisition.

So where does this go? Expect to see a blow out of larger format concepts like Dick’s House Of Sport, post-service destinations like Nordstrom Local and new models of post-sale services that drive brand engagement, including ways that don’t involve the physical product (see NFTs below).

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