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NPD: 18 Million Consumers Returned CE Devices in the Past Year

1 Oct, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Smartphones among the most returned CE devices

About 18 million consumers in the United States returned a consumer electronics product in the past year, according to a new study from The NPD Group. More than half (57%) said they returned their device because it was allegedly defective. Almost half of who brought back a CE item said something could have been done to prevent the return, according to a survey of 2,000 adults completed online in May. 

Among the top three preventative measures cited by respondents: a service plan or warranty offer, better after-purchase support from the retailer, and more explanation from an in-store sales person.

“The high incidence of returns and the consumers’ desire to get help with their products presents a unique opportunity for retailers to intervene,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD.  “Making sure the consumer knows how to use their new device, whether it be a smartphone or a PC, and knowing how to use it before they leave the store helps increase product and retailer satisfaction.”

The NPD earlier this year found a majority of consumers used tech support for troubleshooting and how-to-support, not for product repair — more evidence that these devices are working but that consumers are having trouble operating them.

According to the study, smartphone purchasers show the highest incidence of return/exchange at 10%, while flat-panel TV buyers (4%) showed one of the lowest incidences. A large majority of these exchanges are made for the same brand or model, 52% for flat-panels and 60% for smartphones. New features such as touchscreens, sensors, and Internet connectivity have made electronics devices more complicated to set up and use for some, thus creating the perception of product defect.

“Retailers have an opportunity with exchanges to show consumers they can provide quality and value,” Arnold said. “As technology devices become more complex and connected, pre-and post-sales support becomes more important in keeping returns low and consumer satisfaction for brands and retailers high.”

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