Retailers are bracing for record-setting return volumes this year, as post-pandemic online buying patterns continue. More than half of consumers said they expect to shop more online than in-store this holiday season, and nearly 60% say they plan to purchase more goods than they intend to keep, according to a recent survey by retail technology platform Narvar.
The tech firm surveyed more than 1,000 consumers for its fifth annual consumer returns study, which analyzes consumer buying behavior and preferences to identify best practices in returns policies. The survey found that accurate product details and customer reviews are vital to consumers’ decision-making process and that a convenient, easy returns process will keep customers coming back.
“The playbook for brands to turn returns from a cost center into an opportunity that drives loyalty and revenue is clear,” according to Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar. “Retailers must leverage actionable returns intelligence to provide shoppers with the accurate information they need up front, and provide convenient return options. Some retailers are already doing this and are growing faster with more loyal customers.”
The survey found that e-commerce returns are driven by clothing size, fit, or color, and that consumers continue to practice “bracketing”—buying multiple items with the intent of returning those that don’t fit—when shopping online. Nearly 90% of consumers surveyed said they rely on accurate product details and customer reviews when purchasing items.
When it comes to making returns, 42% of consumers said they wish they could return items at the nearest convenience or grocery store rather than by mail, and nearly 40% said they won’t buy a product if they can’t find the return policy on the retailer's site. More than three-quarters of first-time shoppers who had a positive returns experience with a retailer said they would shop with that retailer again based on the experience.
“By leveraging real-time data, personalizing the returns experience, and providing consumers a variety of convenient drop-off locations, retailers can capitalize on these findings within their loyalty programs,” the researchers wrote, using online giant Amazon.com’s Prime program, which offers many of those benefits, as an example.
The survey also asked consumers about supply chain problems this holiday season, and most said they are prepared for delays and disruptions. Nearly 50% said they are already expecting delays, with 37% of those saying they plan to shop earlier as a result.