Retailers in APAC feel pressure as consumers favor ease of returns 

Retailers are feeling the omnichannel squeeze, particularly with managing online returns and reducing shrink caused by theft, fraud and other contributing factors, according to Zebra Technologies.

Azure Knowledge was tapped to 16th Annual Global Shopper Study, and surveyed over 4,200 shoppers, store associates and retail decision-makers globally in June to July 2023. 

Globally, four in every five retailers agree minimising fraud/shrink is a significant challenge (82%), and the ability to forecast demand is important to their organisation (86%). In the Asia-Pacific region, retailers’ responses stand at 74% and 89% respectively. 

The Zebra study indicates 36% of global retailers (40% in APAC) believe better analytics on shrink could help drive profitability. 

Many retailers expect to deploy loss prevention analytics (49% globally, 55% in APAC) and demand planning and forecasting (54% globally, 61% in APAC) by 2026. 

As omnichannel shopping continues to grow, the volume of returns increases along with it. Around seven in every 10 of global and APAC retailers say the pressure is mounting to improve the efficiency and expense of managing online orders, returns, and the fulfillment process. 

Three in every five retailers say they are upgrading their returns management technology by 2026. In APAC, more retailers are in the process of upgrading at 74%, 12% higher than global retailers surveyed. 

“We are seeing a significant uptick in both sales and returns as e-commerce continues to grow,” said Christanto Suryadarma, sales VP at Zebra in Southeast Asia and South Korea. 

“What’s becoming increasingly apparent is the pivotal role of technology in navigating this competitive landscape,’ said Suryadarma. “Retailers are realising the importance of employing technology to smartly manage the surge in demand and ensure a seamless and efficient handling of orders and processes.” 

The returns conundrum also impacts related industries, particularly warehousing. Retailers are tapping into the power of technology to help manage returns with 62% globally (68% in APAC) saying they plan to deploy reverse logistics technology by 2026 to better manage fulfillment pressures. 

About three in 10 (31% globally, 32% in APAC) of retailers think charging a fee for online orders from frequent returners could potentially improve the overall profitability of online orders. 

“In view of ever-evolving consumer expectations, providing a seamless experience is no longer a luxury but a necessity — whether it is browsing, acquiring, consuming, or returning merchandise,” said George Pepes, APAC vertical solutions Lead at Zebra. 

“The successful operation of a modern store needs to elevate the customer experience, foster stronger engagement among retail associates, optimise inventory management to build brand preference, and increase profitability in today’s dynamic environment,” said Pepes.