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Here’s what customers like – and don’t like - about returns

Consumers consider return policies when making purchases.

A new survey reveals consumer preferences for retailer return policies.

According to a survey of more than 1,450 U.S. consumers by Blue Yonder, seven in 10 (69%) respondents were aware that many retailers have tightened their restrictions on returns, and they generally didn’t view the changes favorably.

More than six in 10 respondents said the new policies were inconvenient or unfair to consumers. Three in 10 (29%) said that stricter return policies were fair and understandable (29%), with an additional 9% noting they would be okay with these restrictions if they contribute to reducing carbon emissions.

Instituting a restocking fee has proven to be the least popular return policy, selected by more than 55% of respondents. Following were shortening return windows (20%), restricting returns to physical locations (13%), and restricting which products can be returned (10%).

Stricter return policies have deterred 59% of respondents from making a purchase. Meanwhile, lenient policies were significantly or moderately influential in making a purchase for 71% of surveyed shoppers.

Why customers make returns

Survey respondents cited several reasons behind making retail returns. More than three in four (77%) respondents said they have made a return because their product didn’t fit as anticipated. About two in three (65%) respondents said they have returned items due to a defect or damage, while slightly more than half (51%) said they have received the wrong product altogether.

In addition, almost half (49%) of respondents said they have simply changed their minds about an item, and one in four said they have returned an item because it arrived after they had planned to use it.

Gaming the returns system

More than one in five (22%) respondents said they have intentionally ordered several different sizes of an item so they could ensure finding a proper fit. Meanwhile, 11% said they have purchased more items than they needed just to meet the threshold for free shipping and would return the unwanted products later.

However, when asked how often they return items, 85% of respondents said every few months or less, and only 10% said once a month or more. About three in four (74%) surveyed consumers said they always or sometimes make impulse purchasing decisions when returning items in-store.

[Read more: How delivery and returns impact online shopping]

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