'Hassle' of online returns checks potential for online growth: study
Difficulties in returning goods to retailers are putting consumers off spending more online, a new study has found.
Irish independent delivery firm Nightline Group
questioned 6,300 people in its research, and found almost 90% were deterred from buying more goods on the internet because of difficulties in getting unsuitable purchases back to retailers, while 94% would be more likely to buy more goods online if they were not charged for returning unwanted items. The survey also found that 47% were put off returning an item because of the 'hassle' involved, and 39% said they didn't return unwanted purchases because of the expense.
These findings, says Nightline, suggest that the growth of online shopping is being held back by shoppers' perception that returning an item is difficult.
John Tuohy, chief executive of the group, said the findings highlighted a need for retailers to allay consumer fears in order to avoid potential lost sales.
"Even though technology has dramatically changed the way in which we shop over the the last decade, some elements of the mentality of shopping remain from the days when we might have been more inclined to use high street stores rather than the internet," he said.
"When it comes to buying clothes or shoes, it seems that we want to try several items before we buy. In the past, if we didn't like something, even after handing over our cash, we would take simply it back to the shop.
"That's not possible with ecommerce and from our research there would indeed appear to be a perception that returns are neither easy nor cheap.
"If retailers aren't able to offer a straightforward returns process, they risk seeing consumers take their custom elsewhere or even abandoning the 'clicks' of the online stores altogether in favour of high street shops."
The comments come as retailers prepare to handle record volumes of returns after the pre-Christmas online buying boom.
Analysis of 50 major retailers after last Christmas found that e-shoppers returned up to a third of clothing purchases with less than 10% of gifts, home products and toys sent back.
Nightline itself offers a free returns service to Irish consumers using its Parcel Motel
network of parcel lockers.
Parcel Motel now has lockers in each of the 26 counties of the Irish Republic. Some 400 units are expected to be in operation by the end of next year.