Survey: Return policies critical to e-commerce success

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Survey: Return policies critical to e-commerce success

By Dan Berthiaume - 09/11/2019
Online shoppers will avoid retailers who lack the right return capabilities.

According to “The State of Online Returns in 2019: A Global Study,” a new survey of more than 3,500 shoppers from customer engagement platform Narvar, only 60% of respondents said they were satisfied with their most recent return. The survey was conducted in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia.

Thirteen percent of shoppers said they wouldn’t shop with a retailer again after a negative returns experience, and this number was four times higher for first-time shoppers (31%) as for returning customers (8%). One-third of respondents were open to making an online exchange versus requesting a refund when presented with options ranging from easy swaps for different colors or sizes to free shipping.

In terms of what return functionality online consumers are looking for, the top reason for satisfaction with a recent return was that the process was fast and easy (58%). Being informed about the status of the return was the second-highest contributor to a positive experience (34%).

Respondents also showed positive reaction to buy-online-return-in-store (BORIS) programs. Thirty-six percent of respondents think it’s easier to return an item to a store because they receive immediate credit and don’t have to worry about their returns getting lost in the mail, but only 10% actually returned their last online purchase in-store.

However, more than half (51%) of respondents said that offering designated drop-off locations for online returns, such as pharmacies or convenience stores, provided a broader range of pick-up times, increasing the convenience to the shopper.

Looking at what creates a negative online return experience, the study found that transparency and speed of refund make the difference. Respondents were most likely to rate their returns experience negatively because the refund took too long (28%) or they had to repeatedly check on the status of their refund (24%).

“Easy exchanges can drive satisfaction with returns, especially with repeat customers,” said Sucharita Kodali, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “If retailers were not able to meet consumers’ original needs, there is still an opportunity to recover sales and drive incremental sales immediately. Incentives like free shipping on exchanges or the ability to easily swap out sizes can translate to loyal customers. On the flip side, a bad experience can prevent that customer from shopping with you again, including performing an exchange.”