Apple tries to lift online sales by cutting refund times in half
By Christina Farr
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc has cut in half the time it takes to give refunds to online store customers who want to return their iPhones and other gadgets, a small but crucial step to try to get more people to buy direct from its website.
The move is a big upfront expense on Apple's part, but could pay off in the long run if the company can lure online customers away from retailers such as Amazon.com Inc and Best Buy Inc, industry experts say.
According to retail-intelligence firm StellaService, customers who buy a product from Apple's online store can get a refund in under a week, versus 10 days previously.
Apple is processing refunds at a faster rate because the company now uses an expedited service, FedEx 2Day, to let customers ship returned items with prepaid labels to its warehouse in three days.
StellaService researchers first noted the improvement in refund processing times in November, but chalked it up to a temporary measure for the busy holiday season. The company, which orders items from Apple's website several times a day for research purposes, also discovered that packages were stamped with FedEx 2Day, rather than a Newgistics prepaid label.
A source with knowledge of the new procedure confirmed that customers will incur no additional cost.
"This is the first time we're seeing an investment like this on the returns side," Kevon Hills, StellaService's vice president of research, told Reuters.
StellaService does business with Amazon-owned Zappos, but declined to disclose whether its customer base included Apple, Amazon or eBay. Continued...