Much like everything else, consumers want choice and convenience when it comes to returning items purchased online, with 88% wanting the option to return products to a physical store or through a pre-paid shipping method, according the to fourth biennial holiday shopping survey from Voxware, a provider of cloud-based voice and analytic supply chain solutions. This article is copyright 2019 The Best Customer Guide.

The study examined why consumers return items purchased online and how their experiences with the returns process affects their decision to make future purchases with retailers. The survey found that 95% of consumers say how well retailers handle returns influences their decision to order from them again. There are a variety of reasons consumers return products they purchase online, beyond retailer error.

The preferences noted in the infographic by consumers point to the demand for omnichannel returns capabilities and the need for retailers to be able to manage inventory levels and track items across in-store and online channels.

Prior to the start of the 2018 holiday shopping season, Voxware released survey data about shopping and shipping habits. Some 31% of consumers reported they would abandon shopping with a retailer altogether if they received a single incorrect item from that retailer. Those who don't abandon shopping with that retailer want the error fixed immediately. The survey found that 39% expect to have the correct item in-hand within 1-2 days of informing a retailer of their mistake. Sadly, the returns process remains flawed, as 40% of respondents reported receiving an incorrect item after returning the first incorrect item.

Delivering the right product on time is critical, and even more so during the holiday season when consumer expectation is at an annual high. For those brands willing to take a risk, let it be known that the survey found if delivery is late or the wrong item is received, more than 78% of consumers will share their negative experiences online about that product or retailer.

More than five hundred consumers were surveyed about their holiday shopping plans, their shipping expectations and the impact that late or incorrect deliveries have on their future shopping decisions.

"The returns process remains a critical component to ensuring customer loyalty and maintaining a positive brand reputation," said Keith Phillips, President and CEO of Voxware. "But the reality is that 30% of our survey respondents have returned an item purchased online due to some sort of retailer error, and that is just unacceptable. Retailers need to evaluate their existing distribution operations processes and technology to ensure they have the capabilities to deliver the right product to the right customer at the right time."