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New Survey Finds Online Shoppers Prefer Box-Free, In-Person Returns

A new report finds that shoppers prefer box-free, in-person returns for returning online purchases.

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Furthermore, mail-in returns — often believed by online merchants to be the favored method by customers — ranked as the fourth, significantly less desirable option when returns are required.

These insights come from the second annual consumer report, ‘Returns Happen‘ released today by Happy Returns, a PayPal company.

The report details evolving habits of online shoppers, focusing on how attitudes toward online returns can inform merchant solutions.

“Merchants are facing greater challenges with online returns heading into this holiday shopping season, including increased logistics costs due to inflation, higher return rates as more shopping moves online, and customer expectations for online returns that are easy and free,” said David Sobie, VP of Happy Returns.

“Despite these challenges, the growing preference for in-person, box-free returns is a huge opportunity to deliver customers the seamless returns experience they’re looking for, while significantly driving down costs by up to 40%.”

Convenient Returns and Refund Policies Drive Sales Conversion

Simple returns and refund policies have become so important for consumers that 86% of them say they check a retailer’s return policy before making a purchase decision.

And while some retailers have turned to charging for returns — this may be a misguided strategy as 87% of consumers state free returns are an important factor when purchasing items online.

The survey also uncovered the following insights related to consumers’ return preferences:

  • In-person returns are the preferred return option: 54% of consumers prefer in-person drop-off at either the retailer’s store or third-party stores. This ranks high above home pickup, even when home pickup is free.
  • Mail-in returns are a thing of the past: 79% of consumers try to avoid mail-in returns whenever possible, and this number skews higher for those under 30 (83%).
  • Bracketing shows no signs of slowing down: Bracketing, the practice of purchasing multiple items with the intention of returning some, continues to be a trend among consumers. More than 1 in 3 consumers plan to bracket their purchases this holiday season, putting even more pressure on retailers.
  • Economic pressures are driving up returns: Nearly 1 in 4 have been returning a higher percentage of their online purchases due to inflation and other economic pressures impacting their financial health. This number skews even higher for those under the age of 45.

Happy Returns boasts an expansive Return Bar network with over 5,000 locations at retailers like Ulta Beauty, Staples, FedEx, and more. This nationwide network offers consumers to return items in person without needing to box the items or print a label.

Return Bars allow merchants to aggregate items and may save up to 40% on return shipping costs. Once in-store, 62% of consumers say they’ve used their refund to shop at a merchant’s own stores or at a third-party drop-off location.

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