Returns are typically viewed as costly and problematic for retailers, particularly with shoppers who abuse return policies. But can legitimate returns be used as a way to build stronger relationships with customers and increase profits?

Professor James Abbey, in conjunction with Michael Ketzenberg and Rich Metters in the Department of Information and Operations Management at Mays Business School, highlight this concept in their recent MIT Sloan Management Review Article, “A More Profitable Approach to Product Returns.”

According to Abbey and colleagues, retailers are missing out on a large group of consumers who never make a return when they find a product unsatisfactory. These, often, one-time purchasers simply never return in every sense: no future purchases and no returned products. Using recent advancements in data analytics, the research team discovered that retailers can use legitimate returns as a profitable marketing tool to better meet the needs of these unsatisfied shoppers.

“Roughly 50 percent of customers never make a return. We refer to them as ‘non-returners.’ They make a couple of transactions, then poof – they’re gone. It’s as if they never existed, but you don’t want to lose these customers,” explained Abbey. “What we’re learning is they’re finding a flaw with the product or they don’t like something about it. Yet, these customers never give the retailer a chance to provide a better option.”

The researchers pose the question: What if companies took these dissatisfied non-returners who walk out the door, and convinced them to become occasional returners who continually come back as regular customers?

“A customer is someone who makes repeated purchases. They are the lifeblood of any business. Retailers incur substantial acquisition costs to attract new purchasers. One-time buyers may often cost the retailer more than they make from the sale,” added Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University.

Abbey’s team suggests that retailers look at non-returners as an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell a product to better meet the customer’s needs, which can lead to an increase in customer satisfaction and retailer profitability. In effect, focus on building a long-term relationship using returns as a selling tool.

“The people who never make the returns provide only a small fraction of the profit compared to customers making frequent returns. If you could find a way to create more loyalty and build a stronger relationship to get them to try more products, you can train these customers to be occasional returners,” Abbey noted.

“The question we’re really posing is not that continual abusive returners aren’t a problem. On the contrary, such abuse can cost millions of dollars per year. Rather, we’re thinking of how to re-engage with customers who don’t make returns. Retailers need to entice them to come back,” Abbey explained.

In order to convince these shoppers to come back, retailers need to understand their consumers. Abbey’s team advocates that data collection and analysis of transaction patterns of shoppers can be valuable tools in figuring out a path to draw these customers back. These factors could include more competitive pricing, targeted incentives, easier return options, or availability of complementary products.

“It’s really gotten easier to understand a customer, to understand their patterns, and understand what it means to get them back in the store,” said Abbey. “If a person truly does not return products and you see this in their pattern, and you can say hey, look if you waive your right to return, we’ll go ahead and give you an extra 10 percent off. This technique is already in action at WalMart’s online portal Jet.com.”

For some non-returners, such a discount could build loyalty because it rewards their preference to avoid returning items.

“In the end, the vast majority of customers who make returns are significantly profitable. In fact, the data shows that customers making sizable returns generate the greatest profit,” Abbey concluded. “Instead of considering all returns as a failure or undesirable outcome, there’s an opportunity to tailor your return options for customer’s needs as a means to form a long-term, profitable relationship.”

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

At Mays Business School, we step up to advance the world’s prosperity. Our mission is to be a vibrant learning organization that creates impactful knowledge and develops transformational leaders. Mays Business School educates more than 6,400 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its programs and for faculty research.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

When Sydney Carsten ’19 began her undergraduate career at Mays Business School, she did not know that she would create a class in which students learn about transforming the business of healthcare. The supply chain management and business honors major did not know she would become the first business undergraduate to take graduate classes in the School of Public Health. What Carsten did know, though, was that she had a passion for healthcare and helping others.

That has made all the difference.

“It’s been this journey of discovery and finding my own way,” Carsten said as she recalled how she found her passion for the business of healthcare. “I can make a difference in the university and find purpose in life.” …Read more

Categories: Featured Stories, Health Care, Mays Business, News, Research, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

Retailers are stocking fewer goods on their shelves, but have companies taken inventory reduction too far? A number of academic studies of U.S. retailers have revealed an overall decrease in product inventories.

Rogelio Oliva and Gregory Heim, professors in the Department of Information & Operations Management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, are two of the researchers behind a study that examines this issue using data from 114 U.S. retailers during 2000 to 2013. …Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

Fifty years into his career of studying marketing, Leonard Berry continues to garner accolades. The Mays Business School leader is only the second person in history to receive the “Big 4” national marketing awards – a grand slam of sorts.

Berry is a University Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Regents Professor, Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, and holder of the M.B. Zale Chair in Retailing and Marketing Leadership at Mays Business School,

He received the fourth prestigious award, The Sheth Foundation Medal for Exceptional Contribution to Marketing and Practice, during the American Marketing Association (AMA) Summer Academic Conference on Aug. 10. …Read more

Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Spotlights, Texas A&M

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will require more consumer control and creative digital marketing. To clear up some of the confusion, Venky Shankar, Professor & Coleman Chair in Marketing and Director of Research at the Center for Retailing Studies, answers some questions about it.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is a sweeping set of new rules developed by the EU to protect consumers in Europe.

Why is it important?

GDPR comes at the right time as we all are still recovering from the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica breach of consumer trust. The new set of rules will go into effect starting May 25. Non-compliant companies can face fines up to 4 percent of company revenues or Euro 20 million, whichever is greater. Although the jurisdiction is limited to EU, it will represent a test case for other countries to develop their own data protection regulations.

Unfortunately, only about one-third of marketers have heard about it and about one-fifth of the companies haven’t made any meaningful changes to their data collection and use to the point of non-compliance.

How will it affect consumers? …Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

Alliance combines research expertise and entrepreneurship for new transportation advances

Taking innovative transportation ideas and working with the private sector to develop them into viable products and services that improve transportation safety and mobility is the goal of a new partnership between the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

The partnership was announced Wednesday, May 9, at the Texas A&M Transportation Technology Conference by TTI Agency Director Greg Winfree and Mays Business School Dean Eli Jones. It is the first partnership of its kind for both TTI and Mays, as it marries the entrepreneurial-focused educational and experiential opportunities offered by the McFerrin Center with the deep transportation research expertise at TTI, a state agency and member of The Texas A&M University System.

Designated the “Innovation Hub @ TTI,” the purpose of this venture is for TTI and the McFerrin Center to work together with a range of partners to develop transformative transportation solutions that address long-standing mobility and safety challenges.  The goal is for these solutions to be marketable to the public and provide product commercialization opportunities.

“This is a paradigm shift in how we at TTI might think about approaching a transportation problem and formulating a solution,” said Ginger Goodin, TTI senior research engineer, who is leading the initiative. “As a public transportation research agency, it is becoming increasingly important for us to engage more deliberately with the private sector in addressing today’s transportation issues because our transportation system is clearly becoming more reliant on private-sector innovation. The McFerrin Center offers TTI expertise in facilitating industrial partnerships and identifying marketplace needs to help us grow our private-sector relationships.”

“The Texas A&M University System has profound innovation capabilities, and our researchers are thought leaders within practically every industry,” said Blake Petty, director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. “TTI’s researchers are a shining example of transportation thought leaders, and we are pleased to partner with TTI on this new venture. We envision the Innovation Hub @ TTI will make a significant impact on how we innovate and translate next-generation transportation technologies to the marketplace. We also see the partnership as a prototype for problem-solving innovation and entrepreneurship training across the Texas A&M System.”

The Innovation Hub @ TTI will function as a catalyst for interdisciplinary research and innovation in emerging transportation solutions and will include the involvement of TTI researchers, Texas A&M students, private-sector partners and the broader transportation community.

About the Texas A&M Transportation Institute

Recognized as one of the premier higher education-affiliated transportation research agencies in the world, TTI’s research and development program has made significant breakthroughs across all facets of the transportation system. TTI research is widely known as an excellent value with a proven impact of saving lives, time and resources. In the laboratory and the classroom, TTI researchers help prepare students for transportation careers.

About the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

Since its inception in 1999, the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship has served as the hub of entrepreneurship for Texas A&M University. Offering more than 30 enterprising programs each year, the center engages student and non-student entrepreneurs in a variety of opportunities to enhance their entrepreneurial skills. From business plan competitions to entrepreneurship certificates to the Startup Aggieland accelerator to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, the center’s programs are touted as transformative and inspiring.

Categories: Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Research, Texas A&M

Marketing Professor Venkatesh Shankar was an invited guest of the U.S. State Department in  Cairo, Egypt last week, where he delivered multiple presentations on marketing. He said online promotion can make a quantum leap in the trade between Egypt and the United States.

At the International Conference on Business Sciences on April 15-16, Shankar delivered presentations on “Innovations in Emerging Economies” and “Digital Marketing: Trends and the Future.” He spoke at the American Chamber of Commerce, Cairo University, Nile University, Ain Shams University, American University in Cairo, and American Embassy.

During a meeting with a number of journalists at the American Embassy in Cairo, he said electronic marketing helps to provide information about the products available in Egypt, and is a competitive advantage in the U.S. market. “Electronic marketing can make a difference in the movement of trade in the sectors of cars and technology among countries in the next five years,” he said.

Shankar said the advantages of electronic marketing will not stop at exports and imports between Egypt and the U.S., but could also introduce American consumers to some Egyptian products and services, enabling Egyptian entrepreneurs to market their products electronically and exchange experiences with their counterparts in the U.S.

“The challenge here is that some communication technologies are not as powerful in rural areas,” Shankar said. “They will have to focus on covering those regions.”

Shankar called on all companies to increase their investments in the development of the technology sectors infrastructure, which helps to expand the establishment of electronic stores and facilitates the transport of electronic goods. “Large companies rely on electronic marketing because they consider it a powerful tool to promote their products,” he said.

About Shankar:

Venkatesh (Venky) Shankar is the Coleman Chair Professor of Marketing and Director of Research at the Center for Retailing Studies, Mays Business School. His areas of specialization include digital business, marketing strategy, innovation, retailing, international marketing, and pricing. He has been recognized as one among the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds by Thomson Reuters and as a Top 10 scholar worldwide on innovation.

 

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

The public is invited to watch the finals on April 20 for Aggie Pitch, the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship’s inaugural pitch competition in which students from Texas A&M System schools and branch campuses pitch their business concepts.

 

Registration will start at 9 a.m., and the program will begin at 9:30 a.m. The awards luncheon will begin at noon. RSVP here: www.AggiePITCH.com

In recent weeks, the participants have gotten a chance to showcase their ideas. In addition to a cash prize pool of $50,000, the winners potentially will be considered for nomination to additional business plan/pitch competitions across the nation.

Finalists invited to the April 20 event will be evaluated and scored by a panel of prestigious entrepreneur/investor judges who volunteer with the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. The judging panel includes Blake Teipel, Ph.D., a local entrepreneur and former student collaborated with the McFerrin Center in 2015 to win a number of business plan competitions around his company concept, including the Rice Business Plan Competition. The Aggie Pitch award winners will be announced at the luncheon shortly after noon.

The goal of Aggie Pitch is to encourage all Texas A&M students to explore entrepreneurship and learn how to deliver their business concepts in the most compelling fashion.

…Read more

Categories: Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Research, Students, Texas A&M

Providing 14 promising junior faculty members and advanced Ph.D. students from around the country the chance to showcase their academic work and receive constructive feedback from their peers as well as an elite group of 15 senior scholars brought in for the event, the Department of Finance at Mays Business School hosted the third annual Young Scholars Finance Consortium March 22-24. The first two consortiums were hosted at Mays’ CityCentre facility in Houston.

Best Paper Winner

The consortium’s topic alternates each year among corporate finance / financial intermediation and asset pricing/investments. The 2018 Consortium focused on corporate finance and financial intermediation.

Activities at the three-day event at the George Hotel and Mays included a cocktail party, 1.5 days of presentation, a keynote address, and a networking dinner. Mays Executive Associate Dean Duane Ireland kicked off the event Friday morning. The keynote speaker was Peter M. DeMarzo, a chaired professor from Stanford University. From all of the Ph.D. student submissions, MIT student Daniel Green was the winner of the Best Ph.D. Student Paper Award.

Participants – many of whom had never been to College Station – said they were “impressed with our facilities, our faculty, the quality of the program, and how well it was organized,” said one of the organizers, Mays Associate Professor of Finance Christa Bouwman.

“Our event is truly unique,” Bouwman said of the rich opportunity for the Ph.D. students and junior faculty members to present and hear feedback from such renowned scholars in the audience.

Categories: Finance, Mays Business, News, Ph.D., Research, Students, Texas A&M

Mays Distinguished Professor Emeritus Michael Hitt will receive an honorary doctoral degree from Jonkoping University in Sweden in May. He will also deliver a research presentation to the broader university community the day before the award ceremony.

This is a very prestigious honor – particularly given that Jonkoping has a strong worldwide reputation for excellence in entrepreneurship research.

Hitt was told he was selected for the award because of his “academic quality and his contributions to the success of Jonkoping University” as well as “research contributions to entrepreneurship and family business research.” Following is information about his relationship with Jonkoping University:

  • Visited the university, as a visiting scholar, for a period of time to work with Ph.D. students and faculty on their research projects
  • Served as an outside advisor and reader for a Ph.D. student’s dissertation
  • Served as an advisory editor and helped Jonkoping faculty develop a special issue of a journal called Organization Studies. Family business topics were the focus of the special issue. Family business is a core research topic for Jonkoping faculty.
  • Served as an advisory editor and wrote a forward for an edited book on family business research that includes chapters written by Jonkoping faculty.

“I am highly honored to be offered an honorary doctorate by Jonkoping University,” he said. Honorary doctorates are rare, and are almost always awarded to people who have made distinguished contributions in their field of endeavor. Hitt said it is also not unusual to award to people whom they consider to be or wish to be “friends” of the university.

Hitt is a big supporter for the academic quality of Jonkoping’s work. His connection to the university is through the Jonkoping International Business School. According to Hitt, the university’s world-renowned program in family business complements the entrepreneurship program at Texas A&M.

“Through our previous cooperation and exchanges, faculty there have conducted joint research with faculty here, and in addition, we have jointly co-authored articles which also include several of our Ph.D. students,” Hitt said. He believes that this type of cooperation could continue and perhaps be enhanced if desired. “I am certain that we can learn from their programs and successes in entrepreneurship and family business, and they can learn from our outstanding and encompassing entrepreneurship programs, as well.”

Executive Associate Dean Duane Ireland, a long-time colleague of Hitt’s, said Hitt has positively touched thousands of students’ lives while teaching at all levels – undergraduates, master’s, doctorate, and executive. “Mike has truly ‘done so much for so many,’” Ireland said.

While at Mays, Hitt served as a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Management. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado and has co-authored or co-edited 26 books and many journal articles. The Times Higher Education in 2010 listed him among the top scholars in economics, finance and management based on the number of highly cited articles he has authored. Hitt received awards for the best article published in the Academy of Management Executive (1999), Academy of Management Journal (2000), the Journal of Management (2006), and the Family Business Review (2012).

Categories: Business Honors, Faculty, Featured Stories, Management, Mays Business, News, Ph.D., Research, Spotlights, Staff, Students, Texas A&M