October 11, 2001, 12:00 AM

The importance of return-to-the-store policies

Online buyers interviewed for a new Shop.org report rated returning merchandise to the store as the second most attractive feature of a multi-channel retailer.

Multi-channel retailers who allow online customers to return merchandise to a store have hit on a feature that is extremely appealing to shoppers, according to the Multi-Channel Retail Report 2001 from Shop.org. In fact, returning to the store ranked second highest in importance to online shoppers, behind only the convenience of shopping outside of normal retail hours.

Asked “How important are the following benefits of this retailer offering both online and offline shopping option?” and using a scale of 1 (not at all important) to 5 (very important), the 48,000 online buyers that BizRate.com interviewed for the report rated returning merchandise to the store at 4.27 and shopping at any time at 4.53. Catalog shoppers also rated returning to the store as the second most attractive feature, giving it a score of 3.85. Convenience rated 4.41 among catalog shoppers.

Underscoring the importance of the multi-channel approach, the third most important feature to online shoppers was the ability to check a price online before buying it in the store.

Interestingly, the ability to return items bought online or through the catalog to the store ranked as the most important item to store shoppers, who gave it a 3.47.

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