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Shoppers Prefer In-Person, Box-Free Returns: Survey

Retailers who update their return policies can boost their bottom lines.

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Ildar Abulkhanov/iStock.com

Buyers and sellers alike detest returns. But they are an inevitable result of retail, and it appears a growing number of shoppers prefer in-person box-free returns for such transactions. That’s one of the main conclusions in the just-released, third annual “Returns Happen” survey by Happy Returns, a unit of PayPal.

That study found that the popularity of in-person box-free returns is growing even stronger—with 67 percent of consumers ranking in-person returns as the No. 1 preferred return option, up a whopping 26 percent from last year. In addition, 90 percent of consumers say they avoid or refrain from shopping with retailers who offer mail returns as their only return option.

This increase in the preference for in-person returns is driven in part by retailers introducing or raising return fees, as they attempt to regain lost profits from the growing number of returns. According to the study, 81 percent of retailers started charging for at least one return method in the last 12 months.

The results of these new fees have been mixed, with some retailers experiencing negative impacts on sales and customer satisfaction, and others finding ways to shape their return policies to drive customer loyalty while reducing costs.

“We continue to see retailers seeking out new ways to mitigate the negative impact of returns on their business, while still meeting the needs of shoppers and maintaining customer loyalty,” said David Sobie, VP and Co-Founder of Happy Returns. “This year’s study shows that now, more than ever, retailers can achieve this balance by offering in-person, box-free returns across an extensive network of locations, with real-time item validation and immediate refunds.”

The 2023 “Returns Happen” report surveyed 2000 consumers and 200 enterprise retailers to understand evolving attitudes and outcomes related to returns.

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