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Big mall owners aim to build traffic via online returns

BY Al Urbanski

Macerich, Simon, and Westfield have all signed on for a new service that accepts returns of online purchases at their malls as a way to win a bigger share of Web-shopper’s dollars at their properties.

Santa Monica-based startup Happy Returns staffs “Return Bars” at mall kiosks and concierge stations with “Returnistas” who accept items bought online, satisfy return conditions of individual retailers, package and post them, and furnish refunds on the spot. The majority of returners end up spending those refunds before leaving the mall.

In a survey of online shoppers during six-month pilot test with the online retailer Tradesy, seven out of 10 of them told Happy Returns that they would not have visited the mall except to return their purchases. Asked if they planned to shop, eat, or see a movie while at the mall, 44% responded in the affirmative.

“This means that almost a third of returns result in incremental purchases at malls,” said David Sobie, co-founder and CEO of Happy Returns.

Sobie argued that relieving the pain of online returns is the best way to get heavy Web purchasers back into brick-and mortar. People, he said, hate having to navigate each retailer to meet their return conditions. They hate the “arts and crafts” project of re-packaging their return. Most of all, they hate waiting for the refund.

“Before we launched, we did consumer surveys asking online shoppers where they’d like our return bars to be. Overwhelmingly, shopping malls kept getting mentioned,” Sobie said. “If I buy a pair of jeans online, sure, I can package them up and send them back myself, but that doesn’t solve my problem, which is finding a pair of jeans that fit.”

Happy Returns is focusing on apparel retailers as it looks to expand its list of partners. It’s not uncommon for online apparel retailers to experience return rates of 30% to 40%, maintained Sobie, who worked for online apparel retailers HauteLook and Revolve.

For now, Happy Returns desks are found at just six malls nationwide, but Sobie aims to have 35 to 40 locations up and running in the top 15 metros by the end of 2017.

Macerich offers the service at Santa Monica Place in California, Shops at North Bridge in Chicago, Tysons Corner Center in Virginia, and Fashion Outlets of Chicago. Westfield has installed Happy Returns at its San Francisco Centre and Topanga malls in California. Just one Simon location has it in place — the Galleria in Houston.


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Study: Mobile to grab majority of online display profits in 2020

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Mobile display advertising continues to surge, and it’s on pace to claim a significant portion of online advertising revenue.

In fact, more than three-quarters of all online display advertising income will stem from mobile by 2020, according to data from analytics provider by IHS Markit.

Global mobile display advertising surged 72% in 2015 compared to the previous year, and accounted for 45% of all online display advertising revenue. In 2016, worldwide mobile advertising was on pace to grow 42% to $41 billion, and for the first time will generate more than half (55%) of all online display advertising revenue.

“Mobile advertising has grown stronger than any other medium in the last four years, and now accounts for a significant proportion of online advertising revenue,” said Qingzhen Chen, senior analyst at IHS Markit.

Despite economic restructuring, China has maintained its growth momentum and remained a global force in regard to its online advertising initiatives. Specifically, the country produced roughly $33 billion in revenue for 2016, making the Chinese online advertising market the second largest in the world. Online grew 17.5% in 2016, and will grow 14% in 2017, driven by a strong growth of online video (51% and 32% growth, respectively), data revealed.

On the other hand, after a period of rapid growth, TV has entered a third year of consecutive decline with a single-digit contraction. Many people are switching to online for content consumption and seeking wider range of content, from foreign information to user-generated content by popular vloggers. TV in China declined 2.7% in 2016, and IHS Markit expects a 3% drop in 2017.

“In 2016, the Chinese online ad market went through some turbulence and reshuffling,” Chen said. “China introduced its first set of online advertising regulations, which in the short term had reduced online advertising revenue, but in the long term, we expect to see a more sustainable online ad ecosystem from this development.”

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Report: Hhgregg plans to file for bankruptcy as soon as next month

BY CSA STAFF

A week after bringing in advisers to determine how to return the chain to profitability, Hhgregg is preparing to file Chapter 11.

The 61-year-old appliances electronics retailer has been grappling with sinking sales for the past two years, and weak holiday sales have pushed the retailer closer to the edge, according to Bloomberg.

In the report, anonymous sources said the filing could come as early as next month, but one source said that Hhgregg is still seeking an out-of-court solution that would allow it to stave off Chapter 11.

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