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For Online Shoppers, Just How Important Is Free Shipping?

Convenient returns emerge as an important factor in customer satisfaction

For online shoppers, issues related to shipping are still not as important as ease of checkout and product variety. But they still play a significant role in converting browsers into buyers, according to a February 2012 survey conducted by comScore.

In fact, when asked what aspect of the shopping process could be improved by retailers, three of the top five responses were related to shipping. Topping the list was a desire for free or discounted shipping, which 58% of respondents named. That was trailed by easy returns and exchanges (42%), online package tracking capabilities (38%), product/brand availability (38%) and live customer service availability (36%). In addition, comScore found that policies related to returns and exchanges were the most important issue to online buyers that garnered the highest level of dissatisfaction, suggesting that retailers should focus improvement efforts there.

Shipping also emerged as the main reason buyers abandoned their cart before completing a purchase; 57% of respondents said they had added items to their cart not to buy them, but to figure out what the total purchase cost would be with shipping included. Almost as many buyers, 55%, stopped the purchase process after discovering higher-than-expected shipping costs. In order to keep these customers moving along the sales funnel, retailers need to clearly explain shipping policies up front and provide cost estimates as early as possible.

A clear, lenient return policy can go a long way in building good will with customers who don’t want to feel penalized for returning items. Almost half of shoppers would shop more often with a retailer with a clear return policy, and the same number would recommend the retailer to a friend as a result of such a policy. Better policies in this area have the potential to build customer loyalty, as well as new customer traffic driven by word-of-mouth recommendations.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Marketers to Inch Up Social, Mobile, Email Spending” and “Mobile Boosts Social Media’s Climb in Russia.”

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