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03/11/2021

Survey: Online returns performance misses the mark

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture

A solid majority of consumers are less than satisfied with retailer efforts at managing the e-commerce returns process.

According to a new survey of more than 1,200 U.S. consumers from e-commerce solutions provider Doddle and YouGov, 75% of respondents feel retailers should be doing more to improve their returns experiences. Even more respondents (86%) said a positive returns experience would encourage them to shop with the same online retailer again.
  
From a cost perspective, 66% of respondents say that they desire free returns, rather unsurprisingly topping the list of options consumers said they want when returning an online purchase. However, only 35% usually return things for free, with 10% usually paying over $4 USD to return. Respondents also find restocking fees off-putting, with 57% saying they would reconsider shopping with a retailer in the future if an amount was taken off their refund for sending an item back.
 
The survey findings also show that more than half (53%) of respondents desire good communications and visibility during the return process (e.g., tracking a parcel, confirmation of receipt, refund information, etc.). In addition, one-third say having to engage with a live customer service agent is annoying enough to make them reconsider shopping again with a retailer.
 
Half of respondents want a convenient location to return an item(s) to (e.g., local store, post office, etc.), with almost two-thirds (65%) likely or very likely to return online purchases at their local grocery store if that option were available. Convenient locations for returns are especially important to older shoppers, as 58% of respondents age 55 or older want them. compared with 41% of those ages 18-24.
 
Additional findings include:
•    Returns are as important as payment and delivery in the e-commerce shopping process (85%, 86% and 86% of respondents, respectively).
•    More respondents want label-free returns than extra-long policies that allow them to return more than a month after purchase (31% vs. 28%).
•    Older respondents are significantly more likely to want reusable/resealable packaging than younger shoppers (57% of those over age 55 vs. 41% of those ages 18-24).
•    One in five (21%) respondents say they haven’t returned anything in the past 12 months.
•    One-quarter of respondents returned something they purchased or were gifted in the holiday season. The median number of items returned was three, with one the most common response.

“The findings demonstrate that with consumers’ ongoing desire to shop online, e-commerce returns present a great opportunity for increased sales and reinforcing customer loyalty, but retailers aren’t moving the needle when it comes to the returns experience and thus missing the boat,” said Dan Nevin, chief revenue officer, global retail for Doddle.