SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 10, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Frictionless returns are not yet a reality for today's consumers, according to a new report published today by Narvar, an intelligent customer engagement platform. The report, "The State of Online Returns in 2019: A Global Study," analyzes the sentiments of 3,519 online shoppers in five markets including the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia. The study found that a substantial portion of online shoppers globally do not find the returns process easy—only 60 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their most recent return.
Friction in the online returns process is hurting retailers, particularly when it comes to retaining customers. Thirteen percent of shoppers said they wouldn't shop with a retailer again after their negative returns experience, and this number was four times higher for first-time shoppers (31 percent) as for returning customers (8 percent). By removing friction, retailers stand to recoup sales via exchanges and encouraging repeat purchases. A third of consumers 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.
Ecommerce returns are on the rise as online sales grow: Returns of online purchases are expected to cost U.S. retailers $550 billion by next year, which is 75 percent more than years prior. Retailers can turn the burden of returns into an opportunity by making the process easier for shoppers. In-store returns are convenient, according to most survey respondents. The study found that 36 percent of shoppers 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—yet only 10 percent actually returned their last purchase in-store.
There is an opportunity for retailers to simplify the "buy online, return in-store" experience and to offer more drop-off points such as convenience stores and pharmacies—16 percent of respondents made their last return at such a location, and more than half of those said the designated drop-off location provided a broader range of pick-up times, increasing the convenience to the shopper.
The study found that transparency and speed of refund make the difference between delighted and disappointed returners. The top reason for satisfaction with a recent return was that the process was fast and easy (58 percent). Being informed about the status of the return was the second-highest contributor to a positive experience (34 percent). Shoppers were most likely to rate their returns experience negatively because the refund took too long, or they had to repeatedly check on the status of their refund.
"Returns are unavoidable. As consumers expect more from every element of their shopping experience, retailers are under pressure to perfect this part of the purchase journey," said Amit Sharma, founder and CEO, Narvar. "Every retailer needs a great returns strategy, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Today's shoppers want options that cater to their lifestyle, so understanding their needs and giving them control over the process is key."
Additional findings from the study include:
Retailers stand to increase conversion by addressing particular pain points.
Simplifying gift returns: Gift returners were significantly less satisfied with their experience compared to shoppers returning other purchases.
Improving ease of exchanges: Shoppers identified a number of elements that would encourage them to make an online exchange rather than ask for a refund including free return shipping and easy exchanges for different sizes, colors or items.
In-store returns are both an opportunity and a point of failure.
Shoppers globally find in-store returns convenient, with 36 percent saying they prefer in-store returns, though just ten percent actually made their last return in a store.
Sixteen percent of global consumers return their online purchase via designated drop-off options, with half of these shoppers noting convenience as the main driver.
Nearly thirty percent of those who switched retailers for an exchange or replacement did so due to a bad experience with the original retailer.
Shoppers are continuing to "bracket," some more than others.
Fifty-six percent of customers globally say they often "bracket" — buying multiple versions of an item with the intention of trying on at home and then returning those that do not work.
Younger generations bracket more than their older counterparts.
Many shoppers are conscious of the environmental impact of returns.
About half of all shoppers said they are willing to return in-store to reduce the environmental cost of returned items.
A quarter of global consumers stated they shop exclusively with retailers who communicate good environmental practices.
Amazon has yet to claim the great returns experience.
Overall, shoppers said that Amazon returns are easy, despite continued friction in the returns process.
Globally, Amazon returners are slightly more satisfied with their experience than non-Amazon returners.
This delta is larger in the U.S., where 71 percent of Amazon returners said they were satisfied with their experience and 60 percent of non-Amazon returners said they were satisfied.
Methodology This study captured sentiments through an online survey of 3,519 consumers between the ages of 19-65 who returned at least one online purchase in the last year across 5 markets including U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia.
About Narvar Narvar is an intelligent customer experience platform that helps commerce companies simplify the everyday lives of consumers. Serving over 650 retailers globally including Sephora, Patagonia, Levi's, Bose, Warby Parker, Home Depot, LVMH, and L'Oréal, Narvar ensures every touchpoint along the consumer purchase journey engages consumers and enables emotional connections—from pre-purchase to in-store experiences and beyond. With customizable customer messaging and tailored interfaces driven by unparalleled data intelligence, Narvar empowers commerce brands to turn every touchpoint into an opportunity. For more information, visit narvar.com.