The ease of product returns and exchanges is ranked among the most important factors in the online retail customer experience, according to a study by comScore and UPS.

Asked directly which aspects of e-tail shopping they'd like retailers to improve, 58% of online shoppers cite free or discounted shipping, while 42% cite ease of returns and exchanges and 38% cite the variety of brands and products available.

Providing options such as multiple shipping (28%) and carbon-neutral shipping (23%) are taken into consideration, but at a far lower level.

However, the report also found that free shipping is one of the least important factors contributing to overall online shopping satisfaction. By contrast, ease of returns and exchanges is ranked among the factors scoring high in importance but low in satisfaction.

The quadrant analysis (below) illustrates the ranked importance of various customer satisfaction factors. Items in the upper-right quadrant (e.g., ease of checkout and product/brand variety) are those with both high importance and high satisfaction, whereas the factors in the bottom half of the chart are of lower importance in driving overall online shopping satisfaction:

Below, additional findings from the The Online Shopping Customer Experience Study, a report by comScore, commissioned by UPS.

Comparison Shopping

When comparison shopping, consumers take product prices and shipping charges into consideration nearly equally, allocating 26 and 23 chips, respectively, out of a possible range of 100.

Shipping speed, consumer reviews, retailer reputation, and delivery-time flexibility are all taken into account by consumers when comparison shopping, but at a lower rate than product price and shipping charges.

Overall, 86% of consumers are satisfied with the overall online shopping experience, according to the study.

However, 63% of consumers say they look into retailers' return policies before making purchases.

Big-Box Retailers Compete on Price

Among customers of big-box retailers, prices are key, according to separate research from Empathica: 61% of surveyed big-box customers cite price as the most important factor in choosing a store; whereas 12% cite location and convenience; and 10% cite product selection.

Some 71% of customers say they prefer to visit big box retailers that offer a one-stop shopping experience, with all the essential products at one store.

Other key findings among surveyed big-box customers, issued by Empathica:

  • 93% visit a big-box retailer in a given one-month period.
  • 40% say employees do not provide accurate answers to questions in their areas of expertise.
  • 39% say employees listen when a customer approaches them with a question.
  • 38% say employees at big-box retailers appear to be enjoying their jobs.

About the data: Findings are based on a comScore survey of more than 3,100 US online shoppers conducted in February 2012. All shoppers surveyed had to meet the criteria of making at least two online purchases in a typical 3-month period. Additionally, an online focus group was held on January 12, 2012. Findings related to big-box retailers are based on a survey of 6,500 US consumers by the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel, Wave 1 2012.

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Easier Product Returns Offer Big Opportunities for Retailers

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