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The NPD Group: 18 Million Consumers Returned At Least One CE Device Over the Past Year

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Smartphones, desktop PCs are the most commonly returned electronics products

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, OCTOBER 1, 2012 – Approximately 18 million U.S. consumers returned a consumer electronics product in the past year, according to a new study, Consumer Electronics Product Returns, from leading market research company The NPD Group. Of those making a return or exchange, more than half (57 percent) said they returned their device because it was defective, the most commonly cited reason for return.

Almost half of who brought back a CE item said something could have been done to prevent the return. Among the top three preventative measures: a service plan or warranty, better after-purchase support from the retailer, and more explanation from an in-store sales person.

“The high incidence of returns and the consumers’ desire to get help with their products presents a unique opportunity for retailers to intervene,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis at NPD. “Making sure the consumer knows how to use their new device, whether it be a smartphone or a PC, and knowing how to use it before they leave the store helps increase product and retailer satisfaction. Earlier this year our Tech Support Services Study found a majority of consumers used tech support for troubleshooting and how-to-support, not for product repair, just more evidence that these devices are working but that consumers are having trouble operating them.”

Some products get returned or exchanged more frequently than others. According to the study, smartphone purchasers show the highest incidence of return/exchange at 10 percent, while flat-panel TV buyers (4 percent) showed one of the lowest incidences. A large majority of these exchanges are made for the same brand or model, 52 percent for flat-panel and 60 percent for smartphones. New features like touchscreens, sensors, and Internet connectivity have made electronics devices more complicated to set up and use for some, thus creating the perception of product defect.

“Retailers have an opportunity with exchanges to show consumers they can provide quality and value,” stated Arnold. “As technology devices become more complex and connected, pre-and post-sales support becomes more important in keeping returns low and consumer satisfaction for brands and retailers high.”

A U.S. representative sample of nearly 2,000 adults completed on online survey in May. The respondents were pre-identified panelists from NPD’s online panel who had made a return or exchange in the past 12 months.

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