While e-commerce purchases are on the rise, the convenience of online returns is still not up to par with the in-store experience. According to a recent report from Narvar, many shoppers consider online returns a natural part of the shopping experience, but they find the digital returns process to be a hassle.
Millennials, a large demographic that encompasses 75.4 million U.S. consumers, make 54% of their purchases online. But 48% say returns in general are a hassle, and 60% keep unwanted purchases rather than go through the process of returning them.
High-income shoppers have a similar view of returns as millennials. They are 1.5 times more likely to return an online purchase than other shoppers.
"Returns are the new normal," said Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail industry analyst who collaborated with Narvar on the study. "As the study shows, most shoppers are frequently returning online purchases, while remaining loyal to brands if they have a positive experience. Retailers who want to remain competitive will find ways to reduce friction in the returns process, whether that's communicating more updates, providing more transparency or offering free return shipping."
In fact, high-income, millennial and female shoppers are most likely to "bracket," or buy more items than needed with the intentions of returning those that don’t work. Forty-four percent of women have bracketed in the past year, compared to 30% of men; 45% of millennials, versus 38% of those over the age of 30, and 48% of high-income shoppers have done this in the past year, versus 31% of lower income shoppers.
For those that have to return items, Amazon ranks as one of the highest for ease of online returns. As many as 75% of shoppers gave the experience a 4 or 5 on a scale of 5 points. Amazon's transparent process contributes to customer satisfaction. Nearly one-third of Amazon consumers can track their return package, versus 25% overall; 45% are informed when their refund is processed (compared to 25%) and 34% receive updates on the status of their return (compared to 15%).