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Survey: Flexible return policies drive more purchases

Retailers should look at returns as an opportunity to jump-start 2020 sales.

An overwhelming majority (77%) of consumers said they are likely to purchase other items when returning or exchanging items in-store, according to a survey by marketing technology and consumer engagement firm Valassis. Last year, 20% said they spent even more than the value of the item they returned.

Retailers can expect the biggest rush of returns in early January (42%), aligning with UPS’ projected National Returns Day on Jan. 2, 2020 when 1.9 million inbound packages are expected to be shipped, the survey found.

"Retailers typically focus on the lead up to major shopping events and on the initial sale, but there is true benefit to continue connecting with consumers during this period of high returns,” said Carrie Parker, VP, marketing, Valassis. Returns and exchanges provide opportunities to drive sales as well as to engage and further build relationships. It’s clear that many consumers make additional purchases during this process – both online and offline. Marketers can embrace this by incentivizing purchases and promoting products using intelligent targeting and even location-aware advertising to reach consumers when it matters most."

Additional Valassis survey findings are below.

  • Gift cards incentivize buys. Fifty-three percent of consumers have used a gift card to purchase something while making a return or exchange.
  • Flexible return policies drive more purchases. Ninety-four percent of consumers agree they are more likely to buy from retailers that have flexible return policies. Consumers are more likely to return or exchange an item if retailers offer easy in-and-out in-store return (36%), an extended return policy timeframe (20%), or free shipping (18%).

Fifty-four percent noted that a retailer’s return policy caused a frustrating experience for them in the past, presenting an opportunity to improve the shopper experience.

  • Consumers prefer in-store return. Seventy-one percent of consumers prefer to return or exchange items in store, with 80% of women responding in this manner compared to 62% of male respondents.  That said, respondents between the ages of 25-34 (42%) and 35-44 (44%) are more likely to ship their return vs. 29% of those surveyed.

Valassis surveyed more than 1,000 consumers to understand their holiday gift return plans. All respondents were located in the United States and are over the age of 18. The survey was conducted at the end of November 2019.

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