51% of Americans Value Free Returns in E‑Commerce

BY Rachel Cagle
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Radial, a bpost group company, today announced the results of its new global consumer insights study, "Cracking the Code: What Online Shoppers Value Most." The study surveyed more than 2,000 consumers across the United States and Canada to determine their online shopping preferences and what strategies brands can execute to meet customer expectations in the increasingly competitive business of commerce. The findings showed that consumers have clear and unwavering opinions regarding the services they value, as well as those that would turn them away. 

eCommerce is soaring with total U.S. sales predicted to surpass $604.2 billion by the end of the year. Fueling much of this growth is consumers' increasing their online spending, with the number of U.S. and Canadian consumers who reported purchasing at least $100 of goods per month online jumping from 57.8 to 59.8% and from 56 to 62.9% respectively. While marketplaces like Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay have always been popular, loyalty to these platforms also skyrocketed year-​over-​year in 2018, with 78% of Americans (+5.4%) and 66.7% of Canadians (+8%) maintaining a membership to an online marketplace. What's more, membership to these platforms remains consistent across age groups, indicating the ageless appeal of the channel.

E‑Commerce Devotees are doing more than making purchases online. According to AudienceSCAN, within the last month, these consumers have used the internet to do research on products or services (51%), play online games (45%), look for the hours of a business (44.1%) and find coupons or discount codes (40%). Additionally, within the past six months, they've specifically used mobile devices to watch online or streamed videos (57.1%) and redeem or download coupons (24.6%). They're also 17% more likely than other adults to find advertising on their mobile apps useful to them.

However, because of the popularity of marketplaces and the conveniences they offer, independent retailers need to meet the rising standards. Topping the list of valued offerings is affordability, with consumers willing to compromise on delivery time in exchange for receiving their order for free. In fact, while 35.1% of Americans expect their goods to arrive in two days or less, only 24.3% would be willing to pay up to $10 for delivery. Going a step further, an enormous 64% of U.S. shoppers expect free delivery for all online purchases, clearly indicating an increased importance on savings over speed.

Return processes also play a major role in the way consumers purchase online goods. Specifically the findings showed that:

  • 51% of Americans and 49.3% of Canadians avoid purchasing goods from online retailers who do not offer free returns, meaning that these brands have lost half of all prospective customers before the shopping experience even begins.
  • Roughly half of all consumers (49.1% of Americans and 50.9% of Canadians) reported that physically shipping their returns was the single greatest challenge when returning online goods.
  • Clothing and accessories is the largest product category that consumers reported they are hesitant to purchase online in anticipation of returns, with 41.4% of Americans and 50.9% of Canadians opting not to purchase. Customers were relatively cautious with jewelry and luxury items as well, with 30.7% of Americans and 32.7% of Canadians avoiding such purchases online.
  • For both Americans and Canadians, using pre-​paid return labels and packaging is the preferred method for returning goods (51% and 39.4%, respectively). However, another quarter of American (24.6%) and Canadian (25.4%) shoppers prefer to manage their returns online and ship items back on their own, and yet another 15.5% of Americans and 20.7% of Canadians prefer to return items at brick and mortar locations. This indicates that while consumers do have clear preferences with regard to returns, there is still no universal solution, indicating the need for options that allow customers to select their own journey.

"While there is a lot of exciting innovation taking place in eCommerce today, some of the most impactful efforts are taking place behind the scenes," said Tim Hinckley, Chief Commercial Officer for Radial. "Our data shows that consumers place the most value in inexpensive shipping and easy returns. Brands that focus their resources on delivering these seemingly-​obvious but often overlooked, or challenging to execute, aspects of the consumer journey are the ones who will stand out from the pack."

Retailers who offer online shopping can promote the ease of returns of online orders in numerous ways. According to AudienceSCAN, last year, E‑Commerce Devotees took action after receiving an email ad (47.6%) or after either seeing an ad on their mobile smartphone apps or receiving an ad via text message (42.9%). They're also 6% more likely than other adults to click on text link ads on websites. Additionally, last year, 56.1% of these consumers reacted to TV commercials and 47.1% were driven to action by direct mail ads.

AudienceSCAN data is available for your applications and dashboards through the SalesFuel API. Media companies and agencies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.