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Many Consumer Electronic Device Returns to Vendor Are Preventable

Smartphone purchasers show the highest incidence of return/exchange . / Credit: Damaged consumer electronics image via Shutterstock

When it comes to consumer electronics, shoppers are not shy about returning problem devices to the retailers who sold them. Approximately 18 million consumers returned at least one consumer electronic (CE) device over the past year, a new survey shows. But almost half of those returns — even for defective devices — may be preventable.

Of those making a return, 57 percent of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed said they returned their device because it was defective. The study was conducted by The NPD Group, a provider of consumer and retail information.

Some products get returned or exchanged more frequently than others. According to the study, smartphone purchasers show the highest incidence of return/exchange at 10 percent, while flat-panel TV buyers (4 percent) showed one of the lowest incidences.

A large majority of these exchanges are made for the same brand or model, 52 percent for flat-panel and 60 percent for smartphones. New features like touch screens, sensors and Internet connectivity have made electronics devices more complicated to set up and use for some, thus creating the perception of product defect.

Among the top preventative measures that might have helped stem some of those returns included a service plan or warranty, better after-purchase support from the retailer and more explanation from an in-store sales person, the survey found.

"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. 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."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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