Return Policies Top E-Shoppers’ Concerns

According to a recent survey of 9,800 online shoppers by BizRate.com, almost 90 percent of respondents consider an e-tailer’s return policy to be the determining factor in whether or not they will continue to do business with the merchant.

Customers are expected to return five percent of the 36 million orders placed via the Internet this holiday season, and the survey contends that the quality of return policies and customer support can either make or break the average online merchant.

Customer-Friendly Returns

“If online shopping is to continue the promise of convenience, merchants will need to pay close attention to building return policies that are customer friendly,” BizRate.com’s Paul Bates said. “Online buyers tell us every day that the key to winning their loyalty is the level and quality of customer support.”

According to the survey, simply having a return policy is not enough. Consumers indicated overwhelmingly that only a 100 percent money-back guarantee would do. Additionally, the majority of those surveyed opposed being charged a restocking fee when they returned an item.

Bad Return Policy Drives Away Customers

The report also found that certain return policies can drive repeat customers away. For example, 85 percent of respondents said that they were turned off by e-tailers that would not or were unable to immediately credit a refund to their credit or debit card. In addition, 68 percent of online buyers said that they would not continue to do business with e-tailers that allowed “too short” of a time limit for goods to be returned.

About 66 percent of those surveyed also said that they would only do business with online merchants that allowed products to be returned by mail, rather than having to travel to their brick-and-mortar locations.

Other findings of the survey include:

92 percent of respondents would not do repeat business with online merchants that imposed a service charge to return a product to an offline store.

71 percent surveyed said that if they purchased a tax-free item online, they would not exchange it at a retailer’s brick-and-mortar location if a sales tax were imposed on the exchange.

94 percent of returns were mailed back to the online e-tailer, as opposed to being returned to an offline store.

The three leading products returned were clothing (27 percent), computer software (20 percent) and books (15 percent). On average, survey respondents had returned only one to two items purchased online during their individual histories of online shopping.

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