Our research with contractors and homeowners finds that dealers are getting 29% fewer product returns and exchanges than they did five years ago. Why? We think you can credit increases in buyers’ level of knowledge about products. We also believe that returns can be cut even more if all parts of the supply chain, for manufacturer to dealer, provide more product knowledge and installation training.

More than 3,500 surveys conducted this year by Principia Consulting suggest product expectations and performance continue to act as a primary reason in returns and exchanges, and contribute to lower satisfaction on a completed project. Here are the top ranked reasons for product returns and exchanges depending on whether pros or homeowners are involved:



1. Quality (appearance, dimensions)
2. Product not as advertised
3.  Located better price
4.  Damaged
5.  Late delivery
1. Product not as advertised
2.  Changed mind
3.  Quality (appearance, dimensions)
4.  Located better price
5.  Difficult to install
**Ranked from most mentions to fewest mentions among respondents

There is no denying that an increase in product knowledge sharing across the value chain is helping to reduce returns. Advancements in product installation and improvement in long-term installed performance are driven by manufacturers who own product quality.

Now more than ever, manufacturers are seeking customer feedback to identify areas for product improvements, ranging from everyday transactional business feedback to conducting formal third-party research. These information-sharing exchanges from all parts of the value chain provide a 360-degree view of where product shortfalls may exist. Greater industry collaboration in product development has led to higher quality products with longer performance warranties and enhanced features to more quickly and correctly install products on the jobsite.

Contractors install the majority of building materials in both new construction and remodel and repair projects. Product training to educate the contractor on how to properly select and install building products remains an important aspect in the knowledge sharing process. A critical element to this process is the manufacturer-distributor support to the dealer market and its builder contractor customers.

Educated and Discriminating Buyers

The homeowner’s role and impact on projects has increased both at the front and back end of the purchase process. Homeowners have become more discriminating in what products they will consider for purchase as they are a more informed buyer through upfront research. Product manufacturers, DIY-focused dealers and box stores collectively provide a wealth of information on product performance and installation (e.g., websites, videos, merchandising). Consumer education is driving the sale on the front end of the buying process but only after installation and a period of time at the back end will upfront homeowner expectations be determined.

Dealer and retailer sales teams need to be prepared for the educated buyer by knowing their products and systems inside-out in order to explain the value to their customers. It is more important than ever to know what is going on in their industry. For instance:

  • What are the challenges facing each part of the value chain?
  • Are there changes in construction methods or consumer buying trends?
  • Who is the competition? Not just your local supply competitors but what are other suppliers offering in the way of products, systems, promotions, etc.?
  • What do your customers think of them?
  • What is your competitive response?

Developing and communicating answers to these questions will better prepare you to understand customer needs, address the educated buyer’s concerns and manage expectations ultimately leading to lower product returns and exchanges.