The Return Racket: Why Shoppers Reject Products Bought Online

Most shoppers have returned items they bought online since the start of the pandemic. And the problem wasn’t so much with the products as the content that described them, judging by Consumer Perspectives on Online Returns, a study by 1WorldSync. 

For 58% of shoppers, it was that the product photo did not match the shipped product or led to false expectations. And 49% complained of bad specs or attributes — i.e., sizing, dimensions, weights. 

In addition, 42% were unhappy about misleading or inaccurate product or feature descriptions, and 34% with a general lack of product information. Finally, 25% blamed inaccurate or misleading manufacturer-provided FAQ answers. 

This is an object lesson for email teams that might indulge in hype, or least a lack of precision and clarity. The firm notes that issues pertaining to the accuracy of product descriptions, photos and overall content encompass ecommerce listings as well as any form of email marketing tactics.



Bad content is especially at fault for returns of beer, wine and spirits (83%), furniture (80%), pet supplies (73%) and groceries (75%). 

Overall, 60% of online shoppers have returned products, including 66% of those ages 35-54, 58% of Gen Zers and 48% of people over 54.   

Retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Target have adopted “Keep It” policies that simply allow consumers to keep products they dislike. This reduces return costs, especially for items that are expensive to ship or cannot be resold.

Among shoppers, 56% have been told to keep an item. But many have not followed through on good intensions. 

For instance, 34% have given a product to a friend or family member, versus 27% who think they would do so. But only 16% have donated an item, compared to 29% who think they would. 

Another 27% have kept an order, down from 30% who expected to, and 12% threw one away or recycled it, up from 5% who anticipated doing so. 

Overall, 86% of consumers would be more likely to shop online if they knew they wouldn’t have to deal with returns. But 45% say they would consider buying with the intent to keep a returned item if they knew that would be the end result — a finding that points to possible abuse of the process. 

One solution is to have items returned to the store. Failing that, retailers commonly use “shopper purchasing history and AI-driven algorithms to detect scamming operations and bogus claims,” the study notes. 

The study, commissioned by 1WorldSync, was a survey by Pollfish of 1,500 U.S. residents conducted August 14-15, 2021. 

1 comment about "The Return Racket: Why Shoppers Reject Products Bought Online".
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  1. Roger Black from Type Network, September 30, 2021 at 6:35 p.m.

    Of course shoppers in a store can see and hold products. But no matter how clear the information online may be ("15 x 12 x 18 inches"), people are surprised when they get the real thing. "Oh, I thought it was 15 inches wide, not deep. It won't fit on my shelf. I'll have to return it."

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