The top thing customers care about when making an online return is…

Consumers don’t like paying to make online returns.

More than six in 10 shoppers all want the same option when returning an online purchase.

Sixty-three percent of surveyed consumers care about free shipping when making an online return, according to “The State of Online Order Returns in 2022,”  a new study from reverse logistics platform ParcelLab and YouGov.  Having a return label or QR code sent with the original order was the second most popular option, at 33%.

The study suggested that the decision by some retailers to charge for online returns will not sit well with consumers. Most respondents are unwilling to pay for returns, with 53% of surveyed customers saying they believe the retailer should cover the cost of returns. Almost six in 10 (58%) would rather return products in-store to avoid fees.

In addition to free returns and having a return label or QR code sent with the order, consumers also care about having a returns drop-off location/point (20%), having a clearly advertised return policy on a company’s website (19%) and real-time live updates (16%). (The study allowed for respondents to select more than one option.)

In other findings, 92% of consumers say a brand‘s returns policy sways their purchase decisions at least some of the time. In addition, 62% of surveyed shoppers say they are unlikely to shop with a retailer that provides a poor returns experience.

Almost eight in 10 respondents (78%) have had to return their purchases. However, more than half (54%) said they return online orders less than 10% of the time.

Retailers don’t follow through

As part of the study, ParcelLab also placed orders with the biggest e-commerce retailers in the U.S. between November 2021 and January 2022. The study reveals that a little over half (51%) of retailers tested don’t offer free returns, despite widespread consumer preference for them.

For the most part (87%), ParcelLab research indicates it costs between $5 and $10 to return an item. Meanwhile, 13% of the orders included in its study cost less than $5 to return. None of the orders included in the research cost more than $10 to return.

Consumer data in the study is based on an online survey conducted between October 6 and 8, 2022. A total of 1,320 people participated in the study, and the results were weighted and representative of the U.S. population aged 18 and over.

A different perspective on returns

Interestingly, a recent study from Loop, a returns platform for Shopify retailers, indicates 70% of surveyed online U.S. consumers are actually willing to pay for more convenient, premium experiences — and 50% already have. In other findings, 56% of respondents who are willing to pay a return fee, and 51% said they are willing to pay between $1 and $5 for a premium return experience.

[Read more: Most online shoppers willing to pay for returns if …]

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds