December 14, 2012, 4:30 PM

Online shoppers want easy return shipping, new studies say

Buyers say they are unlikely to shop again if they must pay for returns. 

Lead Photo

Many online shoppers check a retailer’s return shipping policy before making a purchase, and many will refuse to shop again on sites where they must pay for return shipping, according to new studies released this week.

93% of online retailers, however, still charge for return shipping; more than 30% fail to provide detailed information on their return shipping policy on their web sites; and only 25% include a return shipping label in delivered packages, according to Innotrac Corp.’s SmartHub benchmarking study released this week. The SmartHub study is based on a survey of more than 100 merchants in August 2012.

Lack of a generous and easy-to-use return shipping policy, however, could keep many online shoppers from coming back to shop more, according to a survey this month of more than 2,800 online consumers conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of ShopRunner, a provider of online shipping and loyalty programs to retailers. That study found that 81% of online shoppers say they are less likely to make additional purchases on sites that charge for return shipping. In addition, 69% of online shoppers describe return shipping as a complicated process.

ShopRunner also cites a September 2012 study from Washington and Lee University, which tracked consumer spending over a four-year period. That study found that customers who have paid for return shipping at a particular retailer went on to decrease their spending at that merchant by 75% to 100% within two years. In contrast, the same study found that consumers who took advantage of free return shipping at a retailer went on to increase their spending at such a merchant by 158% to 457% within two years.

The Innotrac SmartHub study also found:

● For consumers to get credit for returned merchandise, 17.24% of retailers allow a return window of 1-5 days; 42.53%, 6-10 days; 21.84%, 11-15 days; 4.60%, 16-20 days; 11.49%, 21 days or more; and 2.30%, no returns are accepted.

● 8.79% of retailers required shoppers to request via phone, e-mail or on a web site a return merchandise authorization number.

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