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Do product returns hurt relational outcomes? some evidence from online retailing

Abstract

Customer product returns are a key challenge for online retailers. Previous research primarily focused on causes of returns and possible interventions to reduce customers’ product returns and concomitant costs for online retailers. However, little is known about the effect of product returns on key relational outcomes. Drawing on relationship marketing theory, we test a model that relates product returns to three relationship marketing outcomes—customer satisfaction, trust, and positive word-of-mouth. A field study based on online panel data from customers of eight large online retailers demonstrates that product returns negatively affect customer satisfaction with the retailer, customer trust, and word-of-mouth. The findings extend previous research by revealing that product returns can detrimentally affect relationships with customers. Implications for e-commerce research and management are discussed.

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Correspondence to Gianfranco Walsh.

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Appendix

Appendix

Measures

Construct and item Adapted from
Customer satisfactiona Tsai & Huang (2007)
 I am satisfied with the services this online retailer provides.
Customer trusta Walsh et al. (2016)
 This is an online retailer that you can trust.
Customer positive word-of-moutha Koufteros et al. (2014)
 I would say positive things about this online retailer to other people.
Customer monthly spending Galloway et al. (2008)
 How much, on average, do you spend per month at this online retailer?
  1 = up to 20 Euro
  2 = 21 to 40 Euro
  3 = 41 to 60 Euro
  4 = 61 to 80 Euro
  5 = 81 to 100 Euro
  6 = more than 100 Euro
  1. aThe items were rated on a seven-point scale ranging from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (7)

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Walsh, G., Brylla, D. Do product returns hurt relational outcomes? some evidence from online retailing. Electron Markets 27, 329–339 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12525-016-0240-3

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Keywords

  • Product returns
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Word-of-mouth

JEL classification

  • L81
  • M31