E-retailer return policies and their relationship with operations strategy priorities and market performance

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Return policies are the method by which customers are informed of the rules around returning purchased products. Extant research has focused primarily on how firms can create return policies that encourage customer purchase. While this focus on demand attempts to turn a potential negative in the customer’s mind into a positive, the lack of consideration of the firm perspective in the creation and impact of return policies is noticeable. This dissertation aims to answer the question: How is the operations functional area of a firm reflected in the content of return policies and how do return policies impact firm performance? It explores this question in three studies by focusing on the under-explored operational influence on firm return policies. Using content analysis of e-retailer return policies, this dissertation suggests that return policy content is influenced by the operations function of the firm and that rather than a sales generator, return policies exist to reduce transaction risk and minimize transaction costs that exist in the business-to-consumer environment. The influence of firm operations of the firm are identified in paper two, suggesting that the operations strategy priorities of the firm influence the content of return policies. Finally, in paper three, I suggest a moderating role for return policies on customer satisfaction which differs from the current research focus on direct effects. Findings from this study suggest that that the process for returning products has a negative moderating influence on the relationship between pre-purchase expectation and post-purchase satisfaction. This suggests that return policies are not considered by customers in isolation but instead are part of a set of service options related to the logistics service offerings of the firm.
Return Policies, Operations Strategy, E-retailing
Southin, N. E. (2018). E-retailer return policies and their relationship with operations strategy priorities and market performance (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca.