SAN FRANCISCO—Roughly one out of every 10 smartphones purchased in the U.S. last year was returned, often because of perceived defects, making smartphones the most commonly returned consumer electronics items, according to a new study by the NPD Group.
About 60 percent of those
who returned a smartphone said they exchanged it for another of the same
brand or model, according to the study, compiled by polling a representative sample of nearly 2,000 U.S. adults back in May.
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In all, the study found that roughly 18 million U.S. consumers returned a consumer electronics product in the past year, with nearly half saying something could have been done to prevent the return. Among the top three preventative measures cited: a service plan or warranty, better after-purchase support from the retailer and more explanation from an in-store sales person, NPD Group said.
Roughly 57 percent of respondents who returned a gadget said it was defective, the mostly commonly cited reason for return, NPD Group said.
The NPD Group said the results of the study indicate that 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.
"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."
An earlier study by NPD Group found a majority of consumers used tech support for troubleshooting and how-to-support, not for product repair, Arnold said. He added that this was more evidence that these devices are working but that consumers are having trouble operating them.
"Retailers have an opportunity with exchanges to show consumers they can provide quality and value," Arnold said. "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."
The study found that flat-panel TVs had the lowest incidence of return among consumer electronics products, roughly 4 percent, NPD Group said.