Return Shoppers by Rethinking Your Online Returns

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Are retailers meeting customer expectations?

Return policies and processes continue to grow more important to online shoppers. By improving the consumer experience and bringing policy and procedure more closely in line with consumer expectations, it’s possible to turn what can be a problem for retailers into an advantage.

Image: A woman holding a credit card and entering her information on a computer.

Research methodology

To compare consumer expectations about the return experience with retailers’ actual policies and processes, UPS creates a sideby-side assessment:

  1. Highlight shopper expectations reported in the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper™ study.
  2. Evaluate return policies, functionality and the return experience of retailers from the Internet Retailer® Top 500 Guide.
  3. Contrast these findings and recommend return strategies that upgrade the shopper experience and improve profitability

Reverse logistics is fast becoming a focus for both the marketing and logistics groups at most online retailers. While the logistics group sees the need for improving process efficiency, the marketing group looks to optimize the customer experience.

Studies on the impact of returns processing show that the expense to an organization can range from 20-65 percent of the cost of goods sold (COGS), and poor execution can create additional pressure. And return rates run three times higher online, with apparel returns as high as 30 percent. (Kurt Salmon, 2013)

66% of shoppers review a retailer’s return policy before making a purchase. – UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper™ study

On the flip side, UPS consumer surveys indicate that 88 percent of shoppers review a retailer’s return policy throughout their online shopping experiences, with 66 percent doing so before purchasing. Also, 15 percent abandon a cart when the returns policy is unclear. This implies that returns policies could affect conversion rates and the top line of the online retailer.

Consumers expect retailers to be thoughtful in how they construct their policies, ensuring that they are both convenient and customercentric. They also expect easy product returns, as well as the technology to support these processes. Often, retailers miss the mark. This study provides recommendations to help bridge the gap between consumer expectation and retailer performance.

Online shoppers want their lives to be made simpler as compared to their experiences with the offline world. Consumers are considering the ease of use of the return policy and process as key decision points on their path to purchase. Companies that succeed in meeting these expectations have significant competitive advantages and a business model that is best positioned for long-term success.

While returns will always be a part of business, they don’t have to be a liability. Effective reverse logistics processes can make it a competitive advantage, increasing your efficiency, retaining customers and fostering growth for your business.

  • Make content about returns policy and process more effective.
  • Clarify policy wording to make more understandable for customers.
  • Offer flexible options, such as in-store returns, to make returns more convenient.
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