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eCommerce Consumers Prize Easy Returns

While 86 percent of consumers are satisfied with the overall experience of shopping online, e-tailers still have significant opportunity to improve customer satisfaction and their competitive position by making the process of returning or exchanging items easier, a new study shows.

Those are the key findings of an Online Shopping Customer Experience Study analyzing consumers’ online shopping behaviors and preferences pertaining to the post-purchase experience. Conducted by ComScore, Inc. and UPS, findings were drawn from a February 2012 comScore survey of more than 3,100 U.S. online shoppers and an online focus group held in January 2012.

The report highlights which factors lead consumers to return items; to recommend online retailers to friends; their requirements for a smooth checkout process, and which shipping services they find most valuable.

Few factors figure more prominently in improving customer satisfaction in online shopping than an easy-to-understand and convenient returns process.

A significant 63 percent of online shoppers look at a retailer’s return policy before making a purchase. Nearly half said they would shop more often and recommend a retailer with a lenient returns policy, indicating its value in driving customer loyalty. Hassle-free returns and exchanges rank above average in terms of importance for shoppers but rank low in terms of customer satisfaction, showing a significant area of opportunity for retailers.

“While free shipping has tended to dominate the discussion regarding what provides satisfaction to online shoppers, the study shows there are several other factors critical to a positive online shopping experience,” said Susan Kleinman, comScore director. “Retailers need a holistic understanding of these drivers if they hope to stimulate sales while maintaining healthy margins in this competitive retail environment.”

Consumers currently are most satisfied with the ease of checking out, the variety of brands and products available and online delivery tracking ability. They are least satisfied with the current level of flexibility in choosing delivery dates.

At least 42 percent of online shoppers reported abandoning their shopping carts because of delivery timing estimates. While two-thirds of shoppers choose the most inexpensive shipping option, more than 40 percent expect to see the availability of 2-3 day delivery and nearly a third want the option to choose overnight shipping. The need for speed is also important, with 48 percent of online shoppers not willing to wait more than 5 days for packages to be delivered. A third of shoppers said they most often choose to pay a fee for faster delivery.

Online shoppers also said they value having tracking capabilities to know when their packages would arrive – 46 percent said receiving their orders when expected would lead them to recommend an online retailer. The ability to reroute a package and schedule a 2-hour delivery window is also important for shoppers in the delivery process.

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