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In the long and winding history of ecommerce – from CompuServe’s founding in 1969 to Amazon selling its first book online (remember that?) in 1995 to Apple Pay’s introduction in 2014 – nothing made as instant of an impact as COVID-19 in 2020.

While ecommerce was already embedded in the consumer experience, the global pandemic’s lockdowns and quarantines suddenly turned nearly every shopper into an online shopper. Total online retail spending more than doubled in 2020 driving 33% of total retail sales for the year1. Note that the growth in ecommerce sales in that one year outpaced the cumulative growth from the prior 10 years. Retailers had to adapt, and fast.

Survival and Success Are Not the Same Thing

To survive this seismic shift, retailers introduced new ecommerce platforms or reinforced their existing processes and policies. To truly succeed in this new reality, many of these platforms and policies addressed new consumer behaviors, such as the rise of BORIS (buy-online-return-in-store) and BOPIS (buy-online-pick-up-in-store) transactions.

After all, more online purchases have naturally led to more returns and pick-ups – and they’re not slowing down anytime soon. That’s why BORIS and BOPIS provide retailers great opportunities to meet and exceed consumer expectations as they turn returns and pick-ups into a positive brand experiences.

Some Retailers Are More Likely to See Returns than Others

While online storefronts are more innovative than ever, there will always be the barrier of a screen that keeps shoppers from truly knowing if the item they’re buying is the right choice.

Consumers can’t touch, taste, or try your product before buying it online. That basic fact drives the need for BORIS and BOPIS – and it’s a major reason online returns more than doubled in 2020 from 2019, with $102 billion of merchandise bought online returned.

Amazingly, these types of transactions didn’t even exist in the realm of retail until relatively recently. Now, as demand continues to grow, so does your organization’s chance to capitalize on shifting consumer behaviors to offset loss from returns, engage your consumers, and maximize profit.

In a recent survey of more than 7,600 consumers by Power Reviews, 70% of respondents stated “item didn’t fit” as the primary reason for return. Considering that same survey showed that clothing and shoes are the types of products most likely to be returned, that’s a big problem for many retailers.

Which Types of Products Have You Returned in the Past?

Clothing 88%
Shoes 44%
Electronics 43%
Home & Garden 24%
Health & Beauty 21%
Toys 19%
Appliances 18%
Groceries 14%
Baby 11%
Computers 8%

Looking at the data from a different perspective tells a similar story. Appriss Retail analyzed 44,000 stores to build blended return rates by retail category – reviewing 2020 data direct from anonymous ecommerce and POS T-Logs so all returns, exchanges, online returns, employee sale returns, and other refund scenarios are considered.

Retail Category 2020 Blended Return Rate
Auto Parts 19.4%
Apparel 12.2%
Home Improvement 11.5%
Housewares 11.5%
Department Stores 11.4%
Footwear 9.1%
Sporting Goods 7.6%
Beauty 4.3%
Hard Goods 3.8%
Drug/Pharmacies 1.6%
Yet whether your company sells leggings or laptops, mufflers or make-up, shoppers expect returns and pick-ups to be as easy as the process of buying the items online in the first place.

Consumers Want What They Want – and They Want It All

Cost and convenience are the main drivers of every shopping decision. Not surprisingly, online shoppers place a high value on both, according to the Power Reviews survey.

When Shopping Online, Which of the Following Options Are Important to You?

Free shipping 96%
Free returns 79%
Fast shipping 74%

Free and fast shipping are table stakes for many online consumers. Likewise, free returns have become the norm as competition for shoppers has reached a fever pitch. Looking at the list above, the next big opportunity for retailers to maximize is clear: BORIS and BOPIS.

Amazingly, these types of transactions didn’t even exist in the realm of retail until relatively recently. Now, as demand continues to grow, so does your organization’s chance to capitalize on shifting consumer behaviors to offset loss from returns, engage your consumers, and maximize profit.

BORIS and BOPIS to the rescue

As retailers dedicate more budget to their ecommerce platforms and systems, they must also find a way to increase resources and improve staffing to accommodate in-store returns and pick-ups. Here are three tips to drive consumer satisfaction through BORIS and BOPIS:

  • Cater to your return/pick-up consumers – Processing returns and pick-ups can greatly impact consumer relationships as long lines and cumbersome policies quickly dissolve any positive impressions made during an online sale. The more seamless the experience the better.
  • Encourage return/pick-up consumers to keep shopping – Returns and pick-ups are a great opportunity to deliver a discount or special offer. By using a consumer’s return information to instantly customize an offer and provide an immediate incentive to continue shopping at the store, you can drive new sales at the point-of-return, recover revenue from the initial “lost” sale, and build consumer loyalty.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of proper staffing and training – Focusing on consumer service is job number one. Make sure your stores have ample staff at the return counter and ensure they are well-versed in company policies so they can clearly communicate to consumers.

While no one really knows what’s coming for the retail industry in 2022, BORIS and BOPIS transactions are here to stay. Consumers will continue to shop online at a high clip, and they’ll continue to demand seamless return and pick-up experiences. Retailers must be ready – are you?



1 Bank of America, U.S. Department of Commerce, ShawSpring Research, Forrester Analytics, McKinsey Retail Practice.

VIDEO: 2020 Blended Return Rates by Retail Category



Leslie Nienaber, Digital Marketing Manager, Appriss Retail 

Leslie researches business trends and distills the information for a retail audience. Her marketing experience has covered a wide variety of industries, including promotional products, microbiology, print, and mail. She spent five years in the retail industry before graduating with her Bachelors in Business Administration from John Carroll University.

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