Survey: Returns Process Plays Key Role in DM Purchases

As direct marketers head into another busy holiday season, a new study finds that returns will matter even more as the quantity of merchandise shipped out rises.

In a survey by Harris Interactive for Newgistics Inc., 90 percent of respondents said that a convenient returns policy and process are important to consumer purchase decisions. That fact is often lost on retailers.

“Returns have not really been at the top of the senior executives' list as something that needs to be addressed,” said Jonathan Dampier, vice president of marketing at returns management firm Newgistics, Austin, TX.

An inconvenient returns process almost is an invitation to stay off the Web site or away from the telephone. Six of seven respondents claimed they are unlikely to shop online or from catalogs with a merchant that has an inconvenient returns process.

But 95 percent are very or somewhat likely to shop again with an online retailer or cataloger if the returns process is convenient.

In the same poll, conducted Nov. 28-30 by telephone with 1,020 adults, 81 percent of the consumers said merchandise return is important in their decision to shop direct versus in person.

Critically, 76 percent preferred preaddressed, prepaid labels attached to the invoice for shipping goods back. They indicated a marked liking for the U.S. Postal Service for in-home or office pickup.

Meanwhile, a survey by Bigresearch for the National Retail Federation estimates that 4 percent to 6 percent of all gifts bought over the holidays are returned in the week after Christmas. That week also accounts for 10 percent of all holiday-related sales.

Though that survey pertains to store-based purchases, consultancy Gartner Inc. says the rate is much higher for items bought online or through catalogs.

It estimates that 20 percent to 40 percent of apparel sold online or via catalogs is returned. An estimated 25 percent to 30 percent of electronics items sold are shipped back. The return rate for shoes is 10 percent to 25 percent, and the rate for home dŽcor and hard goods is 5 percent to 10 percent.

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