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The Option Value of Returns: Theory and Empirical Evidence

  • Eric T. Anderson

    ()

    (Marketing Department, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208)

  • Karsten Hansen

    ()

    (Marketing Department, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208)

  • Duncan Simester

    ()

    (MIT Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142)

Registered author(s):

    When a firm allows the return of previously purchased merchandise, it provides customers with an option that has measurable value. Whereas the option to return merchandise leads to an increase in gross revenue, it also creates additional costs. Selecting an optimal return policy requires balancing both demand and cost implications. In this paper, we develop a structural model of a consumer's decision to purchase and return an item that nests extant choice models as a special case. The model enables a firm to both measure the value to consumers of the return option and balance the costs and benefits of different return policies. We apply the model to a sample of data provided by a mail-order catalog company. We find considerable variation in the value of returns across customers and categories. When the option value is large, there are large increases in demand. For example, the option to return women's footwear is worth an average of more than $15 per purchase to customers and increases average purchase rates by more than 50%. We illustrate how the model can be used by a retailer to optimize his return policies across categories and customers.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mksc.1080.0430
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    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Marketing Science.

    Volume (Year): 28 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 3 (05-06)
    Pages: 405-423

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:28:y:2009:i:3:p:405-423
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    1. R. Canan Savaskan & Shantanu Bhattacharya & Luk N. Van Wassenhove, 2004. "Closed-Loop Supply Chain Models with Product Remanufacturing," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(2), pages 239-252, February.
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    3. Susan Cohen Kulp & Hau L. Lee & Elie Ofek, 2004. "Manufacturer Benefits from Information Integration with Retail Customers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(4), pages 431-444, April.
    4. Sridhar Moorthy & Kannan Srinivasan, 1995. "Signaling Quality with a Money-Back Guarantee: The Role of Transaction Costs," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 14(4), pages 442-466.
    5. Alba, Joseph W, et al, 1994. " The Influence of Prior Beliefs, Frequency Cues, and Magnitude Cues on Consumers' Perceptions of Comparative Price Data," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(2), pages 219-35, September.
    6. Che, Yeon-Koo, 1996. "Customer Return Policies for Experience Goods," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(1), pages 17-24, March.
    7. Kiesmuller, Gudrun P. & van der Laan, Erwin A., 2001. "An inventory model with dependent product demands and returns," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 73-87, June.
    8. Barry Alan Pasternack, 1985. "Optimal Pricing and Return Policies for Perishable Commodities," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 4(2), pages 166-176.
    9. Kamel Jedidi & Carl F. Mela & Sunil Gupta, 1999. "Managing Advertising and Promotion for Long-Run Profitability," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 18(1), pages 1-22.
    10. Davis, Scott & Hagerty, Michael & Gerstner, Eitan, 1998. "Return policies and the optimal level of "hassle"," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 50(5), pages 445-460, September.
    11. Teck H. Ho & Christopher S. Tang, 2004. "Introduction to the Special Issue on Marketing and Operations Management Interfaces and Coordination," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(4), pages 429-430, April.
    12. Heiman, Amir & McWilliams, Bruce & Zilberman, David, 2001. "Demonstrations and money-back guarantees: market mechanisms to reduce uncertainty," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 71-84, October.
    13. Lichtenstein, Donald R & Bearden, William O, 1989. " Contextual Influences on Perceptions of Merchant-Supplied Reference Prices," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 55-66, June.
    14. Hamilton Emmons & Stephen M. Gilbert, 1998. "Note. The Role of Returns Policies in Pricing and Inventory Decisions for Catalogue Goods," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 44(2), pages 276-283, February.
    15. Jeffrey D. Shulman & Anne T. Coughlan & R. Canan Savaskan, 2009. "Optimal Restocking Fees and Information Provision in an Integrated Demand-Supply Model of Product Returns," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 11(4), pages 577-594, December.
    16. Eric T. Anderson & Gavan J. Fitzsimons & Duncan Simester, 2006. "Measuring and Mitigating the Costs of Stockouts," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(11), pages 1751-1763, November.
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