Survey: Online return rate three times higher than in-store rate

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The average return rate for online transactions is 15.2%, according to ICSC.

Shoppers return brick-and-mortar purchased items at a rate far lower than online transactions, according to new data.

The average return rate for online transactions is 15.2%, three times higher than the 5% return rate for in-store purchases, according to ICSC’s Consumer Returns Survey, which was fielded online between Feb. 7 - 9 and polled more than 1,000 consumers. For every $100 spent online, an average of $15 is returned, while an average of only $5 is returned for every $100 spent in store.

The most common reasons for returning online purchases are damaged item(s) (52%), item(s) did not fit (50%), item(s) was not as expected (42%), and the wrong item(s) was sent (37%). ICSC found that the online return rate was higher than in-store across all categories of retailers studied, though the gap was biggest for discount department stores, where consumers returned just 6.2% of items bought in stores compared to 33.2% of items bought online.

For apparel retailers, consumers returned 22% of products they bought online, more than three times that of in-store purchased items (6.2%). ICSC’s data found that 87% of consumers who overbuy online do so with apparel to try things on at home and return what they don’t want.

“We have known for some time the value of brick-and-mortar to a retailer’s strategy,” said Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC. “Our latest findings further prove this by showing that the return rate for in-store purchases is three times less than the return rate for online purchases. Additionally, consumers are becoming more mindful of changing return policies that result in fees and shortened return windows.”

Other highlights from the Consumer Returns Survey include the following:

  • 82% of respondents said that when shopping online, return policies influence whether they decide to purchase from a retailer.
  • If retailers charged a fee to ship back purchases made online, 71% of respondents said they’d likely stop shopping online from that company altogether, while six-in-10 said they’d likely stop shopping online with retailers that shortened the free return window.
  • 60% of respondents said they’ve been given a full refund and just told to keep goods they had purchased online in the past.
  • 79% of consumers would be more inclined to visit a retailer’s store to make a return if they were charged for returning items purchased online, while 77% also said that they would visit a retailer’s store to make a purchase if they were charged for returning items online.
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