A projected 1.9 million returns will be shipped in the U.S. on Jan. 2, according to UPS. For retailers, these returns can prove costly in both revenue and customer loyalty. A new survey by financial service Splitit has found that nearly 60% of consumers have returned a purchase, with 52% opting against completing checkout if the returns process seems difficult.
Dubbed “National Returns Day” by UPS, shipments of returns peak on Jan. 2 due to the surge in unwanted holiday gift items. But returns are a year-round issue, one that is particularly common in footwear due to the practice of “bracketing,” which occurs when a customer purchases multiple variations of the same item, with the intention of returning at least one. The survey found that 48% of respondents admitted to bracketing.
“Whether it’s a fear of buyer’s remorse or uncertainty about fit, our research shows that, today, returns are a top consideration for consumers even before their purchase is completed,” said Brad Paterson, CEO at Splitit. “More than ever, we are seeing the importance of an easy return process to give consumers peace of mind and increase revenue, as returns are determining purchases long before a customer reaches checkout.”
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For retailers, ensuring there is a simple and efficient returns policy could encourage both initial conversion and a return visit. Splitit found that unappealing qualities like a return shipping fee (20%) would deter respondents from returning to a retailer, while free shipping (39%) and a “no questions asked” policy (30%) were ranked as the first and second most important features.
This reflects the average consumer’s changing expectations towards frictionless checkout. When combined with payment solutions like “buy now, pay later,” the promise of easy returns removes the risk of shopping at a new or unfamiliar brand.
Customers who use “buy now, pay later” services, like those offered by Splitit and Klarna, can receive, test and keep their items for a set period of time for free. At the end of the period, they can then return what they’d like and only pay for what they keep. By offering this service and providing an easy returns policy, brands can demonstrate trust to the consumer and help to develop brand loyalty.
“By combining a simple and transparent return policy with flexible payment options, retailers are able to give consumers the confidence and the time to make the right purchase, without creating a burden on their finances,” said Paterson.
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