Survey: Return policy influences purchase decisions

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology

Retailers seeking to boost omnichannel sales should ensure the quality of their return and home delivery services.

According to an October 2020 consumer survey from Pitney Bowes, more than half of respondents (54%) say they are unlikely to purchase a product they want if the retailer has a poor or unclear return policy. Almost four in 10 (40%) respondents are holding back from making purchases where in-person drop-off is the only returns option offered, and 43% find in-person returns to be a negative or annoying experience compared to home pickup. 

In particular, more than half (52%) of millennial respondents are holding back from buying because of in-person returns. Meanwhile, close to two-thirds (64%) of respondents view home pickup as convenient, with 58% using the word “easy” to describe the process. In contrast, fewer than 6% feel annoyed by home pickup of returns. 

Additionally, while many retailers have expanded curbside pickup offerings in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, 67% of respondents still feel home delivery is more convenient. Almost one-quarter of respondents (23%) consumers feel like they're being put to work in the curbside pickup process, with 40% (including about half of millennials) saying they should get a discount for using curbside pickup.

By generation, 43% of baby boomers and Gen X respondents find in-person returns annoying. A leading 45% of millennials find in-person returns annoying, while the generation with the lowest percentage of this response is Gen Z (42%).

Other notable findings regarding curbside pickup include:
•    28% of respondents feel the cost and hassle of traveling to pickup locations is adding up.
•    19% feel like they spend too much time waiting on curbside transactions.
•    35% live more than 15 minutes from the most common (non-grocery) pickup locations.

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