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Survey: Online shoppers want returns reassurance

As e-commerce purchases grow during the COVID-19 pandemic, so do customer concerns about online returns.

According to a new survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers from Inmar Intelligence, the vast majority of shoppers (88%) indicated that they will continue to purchase retail and grocery items online in the near future. 

However, 40% of respondents indicated that they have held off on making an online purchase since the COVID-19 outbreak began because they may have to return the item. And two-thirds (67%) of respondents check the returns page before making an online purchase. Meanwhile, more than seven in 10 (72%) respondents will purchase from an online retailer again if the returns process is easy.

Other interesting statistics from the survey include:
•    89% of respondents want to receive returns-status updates via email and/or text;
•    56% of respondents think it's easy to return online purchases, yet 58% prefer to return purchases in a store;
•    53% of respondents said they had purchased multiples of the same product online out of concern it wouldn't be in stock again when they needed to replenish; 
•    42% of respondents now mail their returns due to COVID-19;
•    66% of respondents said they will feel more comfortable returning to stores to shop for those items once a COVID-19 vaccine is available;
•    78% of respondents said sustainability is important to them, with 32% saying sustainability is a priority when they shop.

Ken Bays, VP of product development at Inmar Intelligence, said retailers need to prepare for the likelihood of online return volumes remaining elevated into the holiday season. 

"The dramatic increase in online shopping means retailers will have to assess their preparedness to handle higher returns volume,” said Bays. “Return rates run much higher in e-commerce, and the additional volume will have a significant impact.”

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