Mobile returns are on the rise, but why so late?

Mobile ecommerce traffic took over desktop traffic years ago, but why are mobile returns happening so late?

mobile ecommerce returns are on the rise

We live in a mobile-first world. But while customers have been browsing and shopping on their smartphones for years, mobile returns haven’t been top of mind for most ecommerce brands.

In this post, we’ll explain why that needs to change and what your business can do to optimize your mobile returns process. But first, let’s take a quick look at the history of mobile adoption.

The history of ecommerce mobile adoption

Believe it or not, mobile commerce services were first available in 1997 when companies started accepting payments via SMS text messages. 

However, it wasn’t until the iPhone was introduced in 2007 that mobile commerce and, specifically, mobile ecommerce really started to take off. This also overlapped with the rise of companies like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, which advanced the progression of ecommerce even more.  

As ecommerce brands flourished and found ways to optimize their smartphone experiences, mobile started to dominate the scene. As early as 2012, there were predictions that the number of mobile users would eventually outpace the number of desktop users.

Not only have these predictions proven to be true, but they’ve far exceeded the expectations we had for the growth of mobile in ecommerce. As of 2019, 63% of traffic to retailers happened via mobile. An online survey from Fluent also found that 54% of shoppers made online purchases with their smartphones, compared to only 23% by desktop or laptop

Where do mobile customer returns fit into this picture?

Why did mobile customer returns take so long to catch up?

We’re seeing from our own data that the rate of mobile returns is growing - and fast. Take a look at the chart below, which we pulled directly from our database. 

In January 2020 = 45% mobile and 53% desktop

In January 2021 = 60% mobile and 39% desktop 

In the span of a year, we saw an increase of 15 percentage points in mobile customer returns. Bottom line: mobile returns are finally catching up to mobile browsing and shopping. This means that customers are increasingly going to seek out end-to-end mobile experiences.

How many returns are done on mobile devices

But why did it take so long for mobile returns to catch up? And what’s holding back today’s ecommerce brands from optimizing for mobile in their return strategy? There are a few factors that can address these questions. Specifically:

How Loop supports a mobile-optimized return experience

While the slow growth of mobile customer returns made sense in the past, it’s no longer the case today. 

Modern ecommerce brands recognize the value of returns and how they can actually be a source of profit, rather than a cost center. Also, technology has caught up and allows businesses to invest in the necessary tools to create an easy, intuitive, and on-demand return experience.

All that’s missing is making the returns process accessible via smartphones.

At Loop, we’re always asking ourselves “what’s next?” when it comes to ecommerce so that we can better serve our customers. That’s why we built our platform with a mobile-first world in mind. 

While we could tell you how Loop supports a mobile-optimized return experience, it may be more effective to show you. Take a look at the screenshots below of a customer’s return experience with Allbirds on their smartphone:

mobile returns experience

There are a few reasons why Loop offers a great mobile experience to its customers. First, as you can see, the returns process is incredibly visual. Instead of creating a text-heavy experience, we make every step intuitive.

For instance, if a customer wants to exchange an item, we let them see the entire catalog of options that’s available to them. This format makes it easy for shoppers to scroll through the variant products, select their new item, and submit their request - all with a few taps on the phone screen.

What you can’t see through these screenshots is that we also offer mobile-friendly features, such as Printerless Returns. This feature allows customers to start, complete, and execute the return completely from their phone by creating a QR code that the customer can simply present at one of our 11,000 drop-off locations. We offer a truly mobile experience, from beginning to end.

We’re already seeing mobile returns outpacing desktop returns. That means now is the time for brands to start preparing end-to-end mobile experiences for their customers. Is your returns process optimized for mobile? If not, feel free to reach out to our team - we’d love to help.