E-Commerce Returns Experience is Falling Short
In February, Doddle undertook its latest survey of more than 1,200 U.S. consumers, conducted by YouGov, to understand how important the e-commerce returns experience is to shoppers. What it found should raise some red flags for retailers.
When comparing Doddle’s February survey to its initial research conducted in May 2020, a couple of months after the pandemic caused shutdowns across the U.S. and consumers were driven online to shop, it’s clear that retailers’ e-commerce returns practices are not keeping pace with the increase in online shopping. Doddle’s current research found that 75 percent of respondents feel retailers should be doing more to improve their returns experiences, as compared to 74 percent in May. Also similar to Doddle’s May research, the current survey revealed that a positive returns experience would encourage respondents to shop with the same online retailer again (86 percent vs. the earlier 84 percent).
The research also demonstrated that consumers’ perception of the returns experience often comes down to three Cs: cost, communication and convenience.
From a cost perspective, 66 percent of respondents say that they desire free returns, rather unsurprisingly topping the list of options consumers said they want e-commerce retailers to offer when returning an item. Interestingly, only 35 percent of shoppers usually return things for free, with 10 percent saying they usually pay over $4.00 to return a product. And not only do shoppers want free returns, but they also find being charged a restocking fee extremely off-putting, with 57 percent saying they would reconsider shopping with a retailer in the future if an amount was taken off their refund for sending an item back.
The survey findings also showed that 53 percent of consumers desire good communication and visibility during the return process (e.g., tracking a parcel, confirmation of receipt, refund information, etc.). In addition, respondents want a digital communications process that requires no need to contact a customer service agent, as 33 percent say having to do that is annoying enough to make them reconsider shopping again with a retailer.
With regards to convenience, 50 percent of shoppers want a convenient location to return an item(s) to (e.g., local store, post office, etc.), with 65 percent likely or very likely to return online purchases at their local grocery store if that option was available. Convenient locations for returns are especially important to older shoppers. Consider that 58 percent of those over age 55 want convenient returns locations compared with 41 percent of those ages 18-24.
Additional findings from the February study include the following:
- Returns are as important as payment and delivery in the e-commerce shopping process (85 percent, 86 percent and 86 percent of respondents, respectively).
- More people want label-free returns than extra-long policies that allow them to return more than a month after purchase (31 percent vs. 28 percent).
- Older respondents are significantly more likely to want reusable/resealable packaging than younger shoppers (57 percent of those over age 55 vs. 41 percent of those ages 18-24).
- Twenty-one percent of shoppers say they haven’t returned anything in the past 12 months.
- Twenty-five percent of shoppers returned something they purchased or were gifted in the holiday season. The median number of items returned was three, with one the most common response.
With consumers’ ongoing desire to shop online, e-commerce returns present a great opportunity for increasing sales and reinforcing customer loyalty. However, retailers aren’t moving the needle when it comes to the returns experience. To bolster consumers’ perception of the returns journey, retailers need to focus on cost, communication and convenience — or continue to miss the boat on the benefits returns can present.
Dan Nevin is the North American CEO for Doddle, a business that specializes in technology solutions for deliveries and returns, serving e-commerce and omnichannel retailers.
Dan Nevin is the North American CEO for Doddle Inc, a business that specialises in technology solutions for deliveries and returns, serving e-commerce and omni-channel retailers.
Dan has held senior positions across retail, sales, and marketing over the past +15 years, and was part of the founding team of Groupon UK where he built out the Groupon Goods business to reach circa $1billion in annual sales. He since joined the senior leadership team at Pepperjam where he managed the sales team for North America.
Dan has a passion for retail, building successful partnerships, and delivering technology solutions that define a category.