New research highlights the continued importance of frictionless shipping and returns processes. More than three-fourths of shoppers (76%) that highly rated their returns experience with a new retailer said they would shop with them again based on that positive experience, according to research that customer experience platform Narvar shared with Retail Dive. Slightly over half (51%) of respondents would not buy from a retailer in the first place if they had to pay for return shipping.
The report also found that more than half of consumers have tried curbside pickup or returns (56%) and instant refunds (52%), but they would only use the services for free. Less than half of consumers have tried two-day shipping (40%), scheduled delivery to home (37%) and same-day delivery (23%) and also said they would only use these services if free.
Consumers also indicated in the Narvar report that they will accommodate shipping delays if retailers communicate with them. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they experienced substantial delays, but only 19% were well-informed by retailers. Seventeen percent said they weren't well-informed by retailers of the delays. Forty-four percent of respondents said they typically expect to wait three to five days to receive online orders, and 26% said they expect to wait about a week.
As the pandemic has increased consumer reliance on e-commerce, the importance of fulfillment services and the returns process has grown. Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar, noted in a press release that retailers need to focus on giving consumers a convenient, predictable shopping experience during these uncertain times, particularly when it comes to delivery and returns.
Improving these processes can help retailers keep new customers, according to Narvar's research, as 32% of customers cited more convenient fulfillment services for delivery, pick up and returns as a reason for their loyalty, while 41% cited faster shipping. Communication is key to making the returns process easy on customers, the report found.
Out of the respondents who rated their last return as "very easy," 43% were notified when their refund was processed and 32% got notifications during the return journey, Narvar said. Convenience of returns also factors into decisions on where to purchase from: Not being able to do returns via the internet or the mail was a purchase deterrent for 26% of respondents, while concern about getting a refund quickly was a deal-breaker for 22%.
Many retailers have implemented same-day delivery, curbside pickup or in-store pickup initiatives to provide consumers with a more seamless experience while they avoid in-store shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Sephora and PetSmart have implemented same-day delivery services during the coronavirus pandemic in partnership with services like Instacart and DoorDash.
Sam's Club introduced curbside pickup across the U.S. in June, and Lowe's announced the rollout of pickup lockers to its stores in September. As a sign of the importance these services have taken on for consumers, Google added new search features allowing shoppers to find retailers offering in-store and curbside pickup options. As the pandemic drags on, curbside pickup may be here to stay.