What Consumers Truly Think of Returns

Originally published on, 9th of June 2022.

Returns are a necessary evil in the world of e-commerce retail.

While frequent returns can adversely impact your profit margins, they also serve as a great opportunity to boost customer loyalty if handled correctly. With over $368 billion in sales lost to returns last year, developing and enforcing a comprehensive returns policy is no longer something that retailers can put on the back burner.

With this in mind, we have partnered with Parcel Monitor to take a closer look at consumer preferences on e-commerce returns. How and why are consumers returning their purchased items? What does an “ideal” returns policy look like? Are “free returns” still a thing? Let’s find out!

Damaged Items, Ill-Fitting Items and Items that Do Not Match the Product Description Are the Top Three Reasons for Returns

E-commerce returns are increasingly common today, with the most frequently cited reasons for them being ”item is damaged or defective” (71%); “item does not match the description” (54%); and “item does not fit” (47%). Comprehending the rationale behind returns (and refunds) can allow retailers to develop policies that can keep their return ratios in check while reducing the risk of friendly fraud chargebacks. Furthermore, identifying the root cause of customer dissatisfaction could also unveil potential areas of improvement for businesses, consequently helping them improve customer loyalty and retention down the road.

71% of Consumers Demand Free Shipping for E-Commerce Returns

While retailers are not legally required to have a return (and refund) policy, there are good reasons to put one in place. From the list of products that are eligible for returns, to the timeframe within which a store accepts returns, a comprehensive return policy not only prevents fraudulent returns but also encourages consumers to place their trust in a particular brand. In fact, UPS has reported that “68% of online shoppers verify a website’s exchange and return policy before they make a purchase.”

When asked what they would like in a returns policy, an overwhelming majority of the participants answered “free shipping”. With reference to our survey’s findings, 52% of shoppers would be willing to buy more items and 33% would come back for repeat purchases if free returns were offered. In the meantime, 53% of the same group found cash refunds desirable, 31% of them wanted status updates for returns (by e-mail or SMS) and another 30% would like the availability of a return pick-up service.

Read the full article here.

The Rakuten Insight Global survey contained 4 questions, each of which provided valuable insight into consumer preferences regarding return policies. The survey was conducted online among respondents from Rakuten Insight proprietary panels in April 2022. There were more than 65k participants from seven markets, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the US. 

Related articles: Effects of Estimated Delivery Date on Consumer Satisfaction Free Shipping on consumers purchasing decisions, The e-commerce logistics race South East Asia, What do consumers really think about collection points?

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