This holiday season, online sales are expected to reach an all time high, which means retailers need to ensure customers have a convenient shopping experience, from start to finish. Most direct shoppers agree that a convenient returns process is a critical factor when deciding where to make a purchase, according to a survey commissioned by Newgistics Inc.
For the third year in a row, the survey (conducted by Harris Interactive) shows that an overwhelming number of US adults who have shopped online or through catalogues (92%) are either "somewhat" or "very" likely to shop with an online or catalogue retailer if the returns process is convenient. Looking at the other side of the coin, 82% said they are "not very" or "not at all" likely to shop again with a direct retailer if the returns process is found to be inconvenient.
But perhaps just as importantly (particularly at peak gift shopping times and in gift-rich sectors), 77% reported that returns policies and processes are important or very important when deciding to purchase a gift for someone else.
Providing shoppers with an easy returns option can give a retailer the advantage it needs to step ahead of the competition. The survey results also show that the recent rises in US petrol prices is driving an increasing number of people to shop online. One in five adults (20%) say the recent change in fuel prices was likely or very likely to influence their decision to shop direct (either online or by catalogue). The survey also revealed that 60% have tried shopping online (up 9 percentage points from last year's 51%).
The results also suggest that it is important for direct retailers to differentiate themselves more by providing clear and convenient returns processes. In fact, 75% of adults who have shopped online or through catalogues said that it is either important or very important to know a direct retailer's return policy before purchasing.
In addition, most direct shoppers cited a convenient (71%) and visible (68%) returns policy as being either important or very important in deciding to shop with an online or catalogue retailer that they have never used before. More than half the respondents (61%) also reported that they are either somewhat likely or much more likely to shop with a retailer that offers them the ability to print their own returns labels and track packages online than to shop with one that does not.