August 5, 2010, 12:34 PM

Canadian shoppers want free return shipping for online purchases

Survey reveals the obstacles and opportunities for Canadian online merchants.

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Canadian online retailers could gain more customers if they offered to pay return shipping fees for defective or unwanted products, suggest survey data from The NPD Group Inc.

The research firm conducted online surveys in April and May of 4,306 Canadian adults—English and French speakers alike—to arrive at the findings. 89% of respondents said they are less likely to make an online purchase if they have to pay return shipping costs.

In another potential obstacle to the spread of e-commerce in Canada, 51% of respondents said they worry about payment security, with the fears most common among consumers who were at least 45 years old. Additionally, 22% of consumers reported they were deterred by having to create online accounts prior to checkout.

That’s not to say Canadian consumers are shy about going online. 64% of respondents use social networking sites to read, view or post content; of those, 46% use social networking to learn more about brands and specific retailers.

In general, Canadian e-commerce has lingered at a lower level of development than in the United States, a situation that Pam Buckley, the director of NPD’s retail business group, blames in large part on catalogs historically playing a smaller role in Canadian retailing, with the exception of catalogs from Sears. “We are not used to the catalog buying as in the States,” she says, “and catalog buying was a gradual step toward e-retailing.”

Yet she is optimistic that e-commerce in Canada is poised for growth, especially in holiday shopping for consumer electronics and apparel. She bases that on information she hears from retailers in the course of her research and evidence from the surveys, though NPD has no historical data in this area.

For instance, while 10% of survey respondents in the last six months bought clothes online, 25% plan to do so in the future. And while only 6% of respondents reported buying personal computers online within the past six months, 25% said they would do so in the future.

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