52% of consumers have abandoned an online purchase out of fear of a difficult return process

Returns management importance becoming more important as half of US consumers have abandoned purchases due to returns policies and bought multiple variations of the same item with the intention of returning

A consumer survey by Splitit has revealed that nearly 60% of consumers have returned an online purchase, with 38% having returned up to 10% of all online purchases they have made. Twelve percent of respondents returned a purchase within the past month, 11% within the last six months, and 18% did so within the last year.

The survey found that 52% of consumers have abandoned an online purchase out of fear of a difficult return process. This number increases to 67% for millennial respondents (ages 25-34), highlighting the heightened importance of a smooth return process for those who grew up accustomed to online shopping. And with 10% of consumers dissatisfied in some way with their last return experience, the survey results serve as a warning to retailers that returns are high stakes – with customer experience and overall sales at risk.

The report also estimates that 48% of respondents have purchased multiple variations of an item with the intention of returning one or more items, the process known as "bracketing."

According to the survey, the most important aspects consumers look for in a return policy are:

  • 20% of respondents said a return shipping fee would make them less likely to purchase from a given retailer.
  • 39% of respondents ranked "free shipping" as the overall most important feature of a good return policy.
  • 30% of respondents ranked "no questions asked" as the most important feature of a good return policy.

In 2018, roughly $400 billion worth of returns were made throughout the year in the US, with 25% of those returns made at Christmas time. American consumers were expected to return over one million packages to e-commerce retailers every day in December 2019.

"Whether it's a fear of buyer's remorse or uncertainty about fit, our research shows that, today, returns are a top consideration for consumers even before their purchase is completed," said Brad Paterson, CEO of Splitit. "More than ever, we are seeing the importance of an easy return process to give consumers peace of mind and increase revenue, as returns are determining purchases long before a customer reaches checkout."

"By combining a simple and transparent return policy with flexible payments options like installment payments or buy now, pay later solutions, retailers are able to give consumers the confidence and the time to make the right purchase without creating a burden on their finances."

The survey, conducted in November 2019, was jointly carried out with Google Consumer Surveys based on a representative sample of more than 500 respondents from the United States, aged 18-65+.

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