Free Returns Still Drive Loyalty, Even As Thresholds Rise

ecommerce returns

Even as more retailers are increasing thresholds for free returns shipping in the face of massive volume and steadily rising costs, 79% of consumers said they’d be more likely to make a repeat purchase from those offering free returns or exchanges, according to a survey from solution provider Loop.

And that’s just the thing: “free returns” becomes more of a relative term and a marketing exercise when there’s more cost sharing going on than in the past.

There were some differences across the pond, Loop found. More shoppers here said they prefer dropping off package-less returns at a third-party location like a UPS or FedEx store (33% to 18%). Also, U.S. shoppers placed a higher value on having more exchange options than their UK counterparts (43.2% vs. 27.9%).

The survey findings were part of a new report from Loop, which queried more than 2,000 consumers in both countries during May 2023.

Overall, the vast majority of respondents (93%) said they’re more likely to purchase again from retailers that offer a quality guarantee or warranty, with U.S. consumers seeing this as a higher priority (68% vs. 58%).

Consumers are also increasingly looking for a personalized post-purchase experience, Loop found. Three-quarters of respondents said they expect retailers to make new product suggestions based on their purchase, with U.S. shoppers valuing it more highly.

Another driver is offering post-purchase offers such as coupons or discounts, or an invitation to enroll in a loyalty program, with 82% of respondents to the Loop survey saying it’s important to receive some kind of financial incentive.

Interestingly, there was a generational spread in terms of consumers who said they’d be more likely to shop again with a retailer that offered free returns and exchanges. Nearly all baby boomers (94%) said this was a high priority item, with the figure decreasing in subsequent age categories (82% for Generation X, 75% for Millennials and 70% for Gen Z).