Shoppers Value Communication Over Convenience in the Returns Process

When returning an online purchase, consumers expect proactive communication and transparent policies up front, according to a report published by Narvar. The report,” analyzes responses from nearly 1,300 U.S. online shoppers.

Online returns are on the rise as consumers purchase more online. U.S. online sales are projected to reach $525 billion in 2018 and ecommerce returns have nearly doubled over the past five years. Shoppers’ expectations for an effortless experience have skyrocketed, and every brand touchpoint has become a critical moment for retailers to drive loyalty. 

The Narvar study found that 96% of consumers would shop with a retailer again based on an easy returns experience. In contrast, a restrictive or complicated returns policy can prevent shoppers from making a purchase in the first place. The study found more than two-thirds of shoppers are deterred by having to pay for return shipping or restocking fees, and 17% said they would not make a purchase at all without the option to return to a store. 

In addition to a streamlined process, shoppers demand more proactive communication about their returns. The study found that half of shoppers want notifications about the status of their return package, and 59% want notifications about the status of their refund. For retailers that clearly communicate the status of returns and refunds, shoppers are even willing to endure some inconveniences in the process. 75% of Amazon shoppers considered their most recent return easy even though 66% had to print a return label and 35% needed to contact the retailer for return authorization, compared to 33% and 27% of other shoppers, respectively. 

Amit Sharma, founder and CEO, Narvar, says that “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, Retailers will need to treat returns as a critical moment of opportunity in the customer experience.”

Key findings from the report include:

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. 

  • 70% of consumers said their most recent returns experience was easy and 96% would shop again with a retailer based on a good returns experience.
  • 69% say they won’t buy from a retailer if they have to pay for return shipping, down from 74% in 2017. 
  • 67% say they won’t buy from a retailer if they have to pay restocking fees, down from 84% 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.

  • 75% of Amazon shoppers considered their return easy, compared to 65% of other shoppers.
  • 66% of Amazon shoppers had to print a return label, compared to 33% of other shoppers.
  • 39% of Amazon shoppers received a confirmation when their refund was processed, compared to 21% of other shoppers.  

Returns can induce anxiety and frustration.

Retailers can ease shopper concerns with a transparent returns process and clear communication.

  • 31% of shoppers have kept unwanted items to avoid the hassle of returning them, down from 53% in 2017. 
  • 28% 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.”

  • 63% of shoppers mailed their most recent return, despite 40% saying it’s easier to return items to a store.
  • 17% 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. 

  • 41% of shoppers said they bracket at least some of their online purchases, consistent with data from 2017. 
  • 51% of luxury shoppers bracket versus 34% of non-luxury shoppers.

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



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