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A new study, conducted by the US-based consumer research firm Narvar, concluded that a majority of shoppers value transparent policies and proactive communication more than convenience during the returns process. Better and clearer communication boosts consumer perception and brand loyalty.

The study also found that 96 per cent of consumers prefer to buy from a retailer again if the returns experience is hassle free. In contrast, a cumbersome returns policy chases away shoppers from buying again. About 50 per cent of buyers also want notifications about the status of their return package and refund. The recent return and refund stats for Amazon conclusively prove the point: 75 per cent of Amazon shoppers considered their most recent return easy even though 66 per cent had to print a return label and 35 per cent needed to contact the retailer for return authorisation, compared to 33 per cent and 27 per cent of other shoppers, respectively.

“More and more, consumers are demanding to be kept in the loop throughout their shopping journey, which includes returns. Shoppers are even willing to put in a little more effort in exchange for clear and proactive updates,” said Amit Sharma, founder and CEO, Narvar. “Retailers will need to treat returns as a critical moment of opportunity in the customer experience.”

The following are some major findings of the study:

Easy returns drive loyalty.
Consumers will shop again with brands that offer a positive returns experience. A restrictive returns policy can result in a lost sale, though tolerance for fees has increased since last year.

Seventy per cent of consumers said their most recent returns experience was easy and 96 per cent would shop again with a retailer based on a good returns experience.

Sixty-nine per cent say they would not buy from a retailer if they have to pay for return shipping, down from 74 per cent in 2017.

Sixty-seven per cent say they would not buy from a retailer if they have to pay restocking fees, down from 84 per cent in 2017.

Amazon shoppers jump through more hoops but are happier with the experience.
Because Amazon clearly communicates the status of returns and refunds, shoppers will endure some inconvenience in the process.

Seventy-five per cent of Amazon shoppers considered their return easy, compared to 65 per cent of other shoppers.

Sixty-six per cent of Amazon shoppers had to print a return label, compared to 33 per cent of other shoppers.

Thirty-nine per cent of Amazon shoppers received a confirmation when their refund was processed, compared to 21 per cent of other shoppers.

Returns can induce anxiety and frustration.
Retailers can ease shopper concerns with a transparent returns process and clear communication.

Thirty-one per cent of shoppers have kept unwanted items to avoid the hassle of returning them, down from 53 per cent in 2017.

Twenty-eight per cent worry their return will be lost in the mail.

Consumers want the option to buy online and return in-store.
The top reasons for preferring in-store returns were “immediate credit” and “not having to worry about a lost package.”

Sixty-three per cent of shoppers mailed their most recent return, despite 40 per cent saying it’s easier to return items to a store.

Seventeen per cent won’t buy an item without the option to return in-store.

“Bracketing” is common among consumers, especially luxury shoppers.
Consumers are continuing to “bracket”—buying multiple versions of an item with the intention to return some.

Forty-one per cent of shoppers said they bracket at least some of their online purchases, consistent with data from 2017.

Fifty-one per cent of luxury shoppers bracket versus 34 per cent of non-luxury shoppers.

The complete report detailing the findings of the study is available online at Narvar.com.