Is a social media driven lifestyle creating returns?

Leading psychologist Geoff Beattie has drawn a link between younger shoppers need to ‘present [themselves] differently to get likes’ on social media and their higher propensity to return ecommerce purchases. He argues that the ‘rise of narcissism and social media’ requires young people to constantly purchase new items, resulting in them becoming ‘serial returner[s]’.

Beattie spoke with the Consumerosity podcast, where he suggested that there’s a generational difference whereby older shoppers might have felt some shame around returning items, which no longer applies to millennials and Gen Z. “It’s almost morally acceptable because you’re recycling in a way”, he noted.

Whether or not the propensity of younger shoppers to return products is driven by a cocktail of social media and self-regard, the important thing for retailers is to have the capability to manage returns effectively whilst identifying those abusing their generosity.

Customers who return a lot of items are not inherently bad customers – in fact, the most high-value shoppers can often have some of the highest return rates. The key is for retailers to be able to identify the profitability of individual customers by factoring in the cost of their returns.

Once they have this insight they can take action accordingly – whether that is rewarding customers for positive returns behaviours such as low returns rate and faster return time, or recovering costs from customers who return excessively.