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18M CE Returns In 12 Months: NPD

Port Washington, N.Y. – About 18 million U.S. consumers returned a CE device over the past year, a new NPD Group survey shows, with the majority (57 percent) citing a defect.

But nearly half of the respondents said the return could have been prevented by purchasing a service plan or warranty, through better after-purchase retail support, or with more explanation from an in-store sales associate.

“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, industry analysis director at NPD. “Making sure the consumer knows how to use their new device … and knowing how to use it before they leave the store helps increase product and retailer satisfaction.”

Smartphones and desktop PCs were the two most frequently returned CE products, the survey showed.

A separate NPD study earlier this year found that a majority of consumers used tech support for troubleshooting and how-to-support, rather than product repair, further suggesting that “these devices are working but that consumers are having trouble operating them,” Arnold said.

Smartphone purchasers show the highest incidence of return/exchange at 10 percent, while flat-panel TV buyers showed one of the lowest incidences (4 percent). The vast majority of these exchanges are made for the same brand or model (52 percent for flat panels and 60 percent for smartphones), suggesting that new features like touchscreens, sensors and Internet connectivity have made CE devices more complicated to set up and use, creating the perception with some consumers of a 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.”

The study was based on an online survey of nearly 2,000 adults in May that were pre-identified from NPD’s online panel as having made a return or exchange within the past 12 months.