Study: Returns Policies Affect Shopping Decisions

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Many consumers factor retailers' returns policies into their shopping decisions, according to the second annual consumer returns survey commissioned by Newgistics Inc., a returns management solutions provider. It was conducted by Harris Interactive and is to be released today.


The merchandise returns experience influences which retailers consumers patronize, the survey found, indicating that convenience is key for many shoppers.


Most U.S. adults who have shopped online or through catalogs (88 percent) say that a convenient returns policy and process is somewhat important, important or very important to purchase decisions when shopping online or through a catalog.


The study also found that convenient returns can help ensure returning customers. For example, 92 percent of adults who shopped online or through catalogs are somewhat or very likely to shop again with an online or catalog retailer if the returns process is convenient. Conversely, 85 percent are not very or not at all likely to shop again with a direct retailer (online and/or catalog) if the process is inconvenient.


The study also found that when returning merchandise purchased online or through a catalog, 88 percent of online or catalog shoppers are somewhat likely, likely or very likely to take advantage of a discount on the next purchase. Also, 61 percent are somewhat likely, likely or very likely to take advantage of the offer from the direct retailer even if it requires an in-store visit.


The study revealed that the returns process also affects where consumers shop and their gift-giving decisions. Seventy-nine percent of online or catalog shoppers said the prospect of a merchandise return is very or somewhat important in the decision to shop direct as opposed to shopping in person. In addition, 75 percent of U.S. adults said a convenient returns policy and process is an important or very important factor when buying a gift for someone else.


The study also found that shoppers tend to procrastinate on returns since 34 percent of adults have held onto merchandise they knew they didn't want for two months or longer before returning it to the retailer.


Harris Interactive, Rochester, NY, conducted the survey for Newgistics, Austin, TX, by telephone Nov. 26-29 from among a nationwide cross section of 1,026 U.S. adults 18 and older, of whom 752 have shopped online or through catalogs.


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