Free Shipping Keeps Customers Coming Back

Making it difficult to return merchandise means customers might not return to you, new research shows.

A study by ShopRunner revealed that more than 80 percent of online shoppers are unlikely to make additional purchases from websites that charge shipping on returns. Those results come on the heels of research from Washington and Lee University that discovered that retailers' return shipping policies greatly affected customer spending and loyalty.

Specifically, that study found that customers paying for their own returns universally decreased their spending between 75 and 100 percent at that retailer within two years after the return. In contrast, customers who received free return shipping universally increased their spending with the retailer between 158 and 457 percent.

The ShopRunner study also found that free shipping policies can effectively keep shoppers online and out of brick-and-mortar stores. More than three-quarters of the consumers surveyed would spend more online and less in stores if free one- and two-day shipping was offered. 

"These results demonstrate a huge opportunity for retailers to increase sales by meeting the increasing consumer demands for online shopping, including free and easy returns, fast delivery and streamlined checkout," said Fiona Dias, chief strategy officer for ShopRunner.

The research was based on surveys of more than 3,000 consumers, 2,839 of which shop online.

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