Chatbots and the Future of Gift Giving

Posted by
Andrea Fjeld
Content Producer
01/09/2018 - 09:22

Christmas gifts are notoriously hard to get right. While some people have an unerring knack for buying the perfect gift again and again, inevitably we all receive gifts that miss the mark. From trousers a size too big to festive biscuits bestowed upon the gluten intolerant, the gift receipt often gives a second life to the most well-meaning, albeit ill-fitting, presents.

Unfortunately, returning gifts isn’t so straightforward. Usually it involves a long queue at the information point of a department store — and is ultimately something most modern consumers decide to forgo.

Over the holiday season, we surveyed 1,000 UK consumers to better understand their attitudes toward gift selection and returns, with a particular focus on their appetites for the new technologies that stand to disrupt and improve the process in the coming years. Key findings include:

- More than half (51%) of consumers reported they have re-gifted a present to avoid returning it.
- The biggest complaint for having to return gifts is the general hassle of the process (43%), followed by the amount of time it takes (37%).
- More than a quarter (29%) of consumers would rather clean their home than return a gift, 23% would rather go to work, and 12% would rather spend time with their in-laws.

Managing gift returns is something most store managers dread, but for brands — especially after Christmas — the customer journey can’t stop once an item is delivered or bought in store. Retailers need to anticipate returns and manage their external and internal processes so they can maintain high levels of service.

As retailers continue to explore innovative ways to streamline shopping processes, advancing chatbot and messaging technologies provide organisations with the tools and infrastructure to handle these kinds of requests efficiently, improving the customer experience and driving loyalty.

Return or re-gift?

Re-gifting is frowned upon in most social circles; however, over half of consumers (51%) reported that they have re-gifted a present to avoid dealing with the returns process. This figure is huge but provides a simple indication of a culture currently bent to human convenience.

In fact, our research shows that consumers would rather do almost anything else than take a present back to the shop. Twenty-nine per cent would rather clean their house, 23% would rather go to work, 19% would rather do their laundry, 12% would rather go to the dentist, 12% would rather spend time with their in-laws, and some 11% of respondents said they would rather sit in a traffic jam. Tax returns, however, were still deemed a less favourable pastime, with only 7% stating they would prefer to be doing this than handle a return.

The stress of returning gifts

With 8% of respondents saying they’d look to return 76–100% of the gifts they received if the process were effortless, we identified several main reasons deterring them. For 43% of consumers, the main issue was the general hassle of the process. While 37% didn’t return gifts due to the amount of time it took, 20% blamed the stress of dealing with staff.

Digital returns

Following the dramatic increase in mobile purchasing over the last five years as well as the rapid adoption of new technology across all generations, more and more people are buying products using channels they may not have considered before.

According to another LivePerson study, 71% of respondents have made an Amazon purchase via Alexa voice technology at least once, and 46% of Alexa owners have used it to make a purchase multiple times — meaning almost two thirds of consumers who try Alexa out become repeat users.

Adopting similar tactics to improve the returns process is, therefore, a logical next step, and LivePerson’s latest research saw a real consumer appetite for digitally enabled returns.

The channel of choice

The majority of consumers (51%) use a company’s website to find out which items can be returned, showing a clear digital preference. Newer, innovative digital channels are on the rise, too: Five per cent of respondents use live chat and messaging channels to get information about returns, and 7% now use a brand’s social media pages.

Customers were by no means entirely satisfied with the channels currently on offer, as 9% said they always provided the right information, compared to the 10% who said they never did. But overall, the channels were deemed useful, if not perfect: Thirty-eight per cent found them ‘always’ or ‘often’ helpful, compared to 23% who found them ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ able to supply the right information.

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