Unhappy Returns: Data Shows Marketers Should Focus On Messaging In Holiday Ads

Shoppers' opinions on returning items bought online and in-store based on a PowerReviews survey in June of 7,688 U.S. consumers shows consumers in higher-income households are more likely interested in returns than lower-income households. 

Data from the PowerReviews Consumer Survey: Returns in Retail in 2021 found 83% of consumers with incomes of more than $100,000 annually report that free returns are important vs. 75% of consumers with an annual income of $25,000.

About 76% of shoppers with an annual income of between $26,000 and $50,000 said free returns are important, while 77% of those with an annual income of between $51,000 and $75,000 said free returns are important. The number goes up to 80% for consumers who earn between $76,000 and $100,000.

Logically, it seems as if lower-income households would want an easy, free return policy, but as it turns out, high-income households have more discretionary income to spend on nice-to-have items, and they want the option to return the item if they change their mind. Lower-income households could be primarily doing online shopping for necessities that they don’t plan to return.

advertisement

advertisement

Returns from online purchases are as common as they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 88% of consumers report they make returns at least “occasionally.” This aligns with industry reporting that says returns were up 70% year-over-year in 2020.

Some 22% said they make returns “sometimes,” while 5% said they do so "regularly," 2% said “always” and 12% said they “never” do returns.

At 22%, those who earn less than $25,000 annually were also the most likely to say they would never return something. Some 5% of those who earn more than $100,000 annually were the least likely to return items.

When consumers were asked whether they return products purchased online more or less often than products you buy in-store, 47% said it is the same, while 33% said less, and 20% said more.

At 28%, GenZ were the most likely to say they returned items purchased online more frequently, and at 13% Boomers were the least likely to do so.

When comparing the frequency of returning items today vs. before the COVID-19 pandemic, 72% of consumers say they return online purchases at the same rate, while 15% said less and 13% said more.

Apparel, shoes, and electronics top the most-returned product categories. At 88%, clothing was the most common type of product that people returned. Shoes placed No. 2 at 44%, and electronics came in at No. 3 with 43%.

The data also suggests user-generated content (UGC) decreases the likelihood of returns.

When asked which forms of UCG would make a consumer less likely to return products bought online if viewed them prior to purchasing, 70% cited ratings and reviews, while 68% said questions and answers, and 67% said images and videos.  

UGC is the most influential format for younger shoppers. Some 82% of Gen Z agreed that viewing UGC imagery prior to purchasing a product online would make them less likely to return it. Millennials were next at 73%, while Gen X came in at 61%, and Boomers at 51%.

Reviews also decrease the likelihood of returns at 75%, 75%, 64%, and 59%, respectively.

Next story loading loading..