Try Before You Buy

What follows holiday season? Return season. Especially in the consumer electronics industry. TIME Moneyland reports that, since 2011, the return rate for electronics has fluctuated from between 11 and 20%, significantly higher than other product categories. According to Accenture’s survey of 100 electronics stores, return rates have increased at more than 50% of those stores in the past 3 to 5 years.

It begs the question: why are we returning our electronics? I would argue that it is because we are not doing our research. In fact, in 2011, The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) conducted a large study titled The CE Product Returns: Understand Why They Occur and How to Reduce Them and the number one reason cited for returning consumer electronics was that the device did not work as expected. Who is at fault here? The consumer.

For an electronic to be a valued gift, it cannot be a surprise. The person who wants the device must test it out to see if it will fit his/her needs before a purchase is made. They must ask themselves the following questions to narrow down the options in the marketplace and then they must physically try before they buy.

  • What do you want the device to do for you? How will you be using it?
  • Which device are you currently using to do those things? Why are you dissatisfied with your current device?
  • How comfortable are you with setting up and making changes to a new device?
  • Have you physically tried the device you want and its closest competitor to see, touch, and feel the differences?
  • Have you talked to people that have the device you want?

In 2010-2011, the number of people who indicated that they returned a device because it didn’t meet expectations totaled approximately 30%. Return rates for the 2012 holiday season aren’t in quite yet, but I’m willing to bet consumer electronics again topped the list. People are buying blindly—and then they are upset when there is a mismatch between what the technology actually does and what they wanted or expected it to do. Let’s be smarter and do our homework—because when you make a mistake with technology purchases, it is a costly one.

I want to know what you think. Post your response and check back for a reply.

  • What process do you go through before you buy a piece of technology?
  • Have you ever bought someone a device, only to have it returned?
  • Why have you returned your electronics?

Topics: trends, customer service, shopping