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“Amazon faces the challenge of high product return rates, with 30% of online purchases returned. This leads to losses and wasted resources. Can we find a solution?”

Disclaimer: All views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the respective company. Some design elements have been changed from the original.

Ever since the pandemic, the number of online orders has skyrocketed. Recent studies show that more than 30% of the products that are bought online are returned. The shipping and return process not only causes loss but also ends up overusing precious recourses like packaging material and fossil fuels for transportation.

“Our ambition is to tackle the issue of excessive product returns by implementing innovative design solutions aimed at lowering the return rate to a minimum.”

We employed a two-pronged approach to gathering information for our research, including secondary research and an online survey. The survey questionnaire was completed by 31 respondents, yielding valuable insights and a strong interest in further engagement through user interviews. To gather qualitative data, we conducted in-depth interviews with 5 individuals. After synthesizing the information gathered, it was organized into an affinity diagram to uncover common themes and group related terms together. 

The affinity diagram revealed four distinct archetypes. We used that to develop proto-personas. These proto-personas allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of the user segments using the platform and their unique needs and characteristics.

We then meticulously executed a customer journey mapping exercise to gain insights into the entire process of a customer's purchasing journey, from initial consideration to eventual return due to dissatisfaction with the product.

From the user research conducted, we come up with several solutions that can be tried to reach our goal of having a lower number of overall returns. This can further be classified into two.

Immediately achievable:

  • Change in logistics flow to allow for a store and forward option in the case of return instead of shipping the product back to the seller.

  • Improved Product description with mandatory images to provide a sense of scale to improve the users understanding of the product.

Ambitious (Further research needed):

  • Providing a 15-minute return window for the user to try it and return the item on the spot, this can reduce logistics costs and the overall carbon footprint.

  • An AR(Augmented Reality) try-on option for items like clothes and furniture so that they can viewed in 3d space before buying.

"Change in logistics flow to allow for a store and forward option in the case of return instead of shipping the product back to the seller."

 The mixed Reality view helps the shopper better understand what he/she is buying. The 3d space is mapped out with the help of a lidar sensor (already available on the latest iPhone's). This helps to give a more accurate representation of scale. The users can then interact with the object in real time to get a feel of the product before buying it.

“Providing comparison images of the product, such as comparing it to an average human size, can help improve understanding of its size.”

Providing a rapid return policy can seem counterintuitive initially, as we are trying to reduce the return rates in the first place. Providing options like cash-on-delivery and a 15-minute window can convince the older generation and people who are sceptical about buying things online to buy their first product. It can also reduce logistics costs and the overall carbon footprint.

“The solutions presented above have proven to be effective in mitigating the increasing return rate. Initial testing with a limited group of users yielded highly positive results. Further testing is strongly encouraged to solidify the solution's efficacy.”

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