Are chronic online returners only a few bad apples?
A new poll from NPR/Marist seems to show that the high rates of online returns are being driven by a small group of chronic returners rather than large swaths of consumers taking advantage of liberal return policies.
The survey of 1,057 adults found that 91 percent either “only rarely” (65 percent) or “never” (26 percent) return merchandise they buy online.
That leaves the remaining nine percent who “very often” or “often” return items responsible for driving the reported high rate of online returns.
According to CBRE, the commercial real estate services firm, online returns typically amount to 15 to 20 percent of overall sales, far outpacing the eight percent return rate for merchandise brought in stores. Some other reports have indicated that online returns can run as high as 40 percent for categories such as apparel and shoes where fit is critical.
The high return rates have largely been attributed to the many free return policies retailers offer. The poll indicated that free returns are important to consumers. Asked whether a free return policy influences their decision to buy online, 40 percent indicated “a lot,” 37 percent “a little,” and 22 percent said, “not at all.”
Yet the main reason shoppers kept a purchase they wanted to return was that the return process was too much of a hassle (54 percent). That was followed by missing the return window (22 percent), and the cost of returning the item being too high (16 percent). “Some other factor” was eight percent.
Other findings on returns:
- Sixty-six percent have “never” made an online purchase with the expectation that they will return at least part of the order, with 28 percent indicating they “rarely” do that.
- Only two percent “often” or “very often” return items that they’ve worn or used.
- Nineteen percent “never” and 79 percent “hardly ever” regret making an online purchase.
A recent Wall Street Journal article detailed how many retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy, are increasingly combatting excessive returners by warning and in some cases banning them.
- NPR/Marist Poll: Amazon is a colossus in a nation of shoppers – Marist/NPR
- NPR/Marist Poll Results June 2018: Digital Economy – NPR/Marist
- Online Shoppers Say They Rarely Return Purchases. Why? – NPR
- CBRE Report: Holiday E-Commerce Returns Could Reach $32 Billion As Online Sales Surge – CBRE
- Amazon bans chronic returners – RetailWire
- The Stores That Track Your Returns – The Wall Street Journal
- Banned From Amazon: The Shoppers Who Make Too Many Returns – The Wall Street Journal
- Shoppers beware: Too many returns could leave you banned – WRAL
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does it make sense that only a minority of repeat returners are driving up the high rates of online returns? Do the findings from the NPR/Marist poll do more to justify free shipping policies or bans of abusive returners?