Are Product Returns Necessary Evil? The Antecedents and Consequences of Product Returns
The firm-customer exchange process consists of three key parts: (1) firm-initiated marketing communications, (2) customer buying behavior, and (3) customer product return behavior.To date, the literature in marketing has largely focused on how marketing communications affect customer buying behavior and, to some extent, how past buying behavior affects a firm's decisions to initiate future marketing communications. However, the literature on product returns is sparse, especially in relation to analyzing individual customer product return behavior. Although the magnitude of the value of product returns is known to be high ($100 billion per year), how it affects customer buying behavior is not known because of a lack of data availability and understanding of the role of product returns in the firm-customer exchange process. Given that product returns are considered a hassle for a firm's supply chain management and a drain on overall profitability, it is important to study product return behavior. Thus, the authors empirically demonstrate the role of product returns in the exchange process by determining the exchange process factors that help explain product return behavior and the consequences of product returns on future customer and firm behavior. In addition, the authors demonstrate that product returns are inevitable but by no means evil.