January 24, 2012, 12:07 PM

Online shoppers enjoy quick deliveries from most e-retailers

But those consumers will be waiting longer for refunds on returns, a study finds.

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E-retailers moved quickly to ship orders during the fourth quarter of 2011 but the returns process moved more slowly, according to a performance analysis from fulfillment vendor Innotrac Corp. that charted online retailers’ interactions with customers. 

Innotrac staff placed multiple orders with 128 e-retailers of varying sizes, including some of its own clients, and measured how the retailers performed on 44 points, such as customer service availability, order confirmation communications and shipping options. Innotrac also evaluated how packages looked when they arrived and how the retailers handled returns. The Innotrac SmartHub Benchmark analysis included orders placed with such retailers as Target Corp., No. 22 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, Kohl’s Corp. (No. 31), Best Buy Co. (No. 11), Sears Holdings Corp., (No. 7), Gaiam Inc. (No. 285), and Charlotte Russe Holding Inc. (No 349).

The study found that 66% of the orders placed arrived in three or fewer days from the time the order confirmation was sent, which exceeded Innotrac’s estimate that 50% of orders would arrive within that timeframe. 22% of orders arrived in four days; 7% arrived on day five; and 3% arrived on day seven. 2% of orders took more than seven days to arrive.   

But when products were returned, e-retailers took a lot longer to issue a refund, Innotrac says. 19% of merchants refunded Innotrac for its return within one to five days, but the majority of retailers took longer. 34% issued refunds in six to 10 days; 23% took 11 to 15 days to refund a return; 8% took 16 to 20 days and 16% took more than 20 days to do so.

“The fact that 16% of retailers take more than 20 days to issue a credit shows that there are still some issues and that that process is not as expedient as it should be,” says Jon Eggleton, vice president of marketing and e-commerce for Innotrac.

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