Online stores should allow customers to return goods to outlets to boost sales, study finds

Ian Grant

Two-thirds of shoppers consult the web before buying products, but the inabilty of shoppers to return goods to an outlet is limiting online purchases, according to Ipsos Mori research.

The research, commissioned by retail system integrator Sterling Commerce interviewed 1,000 shoppers in the UK, Germany and France.

It said that providing an in-store exchange service does not lead to lost sales because 81% of those who return goods are likely to replace them, and half expect to buy more.

"Allowing customers to return goods in-store provides an extra opportunity to sell, with 81% of shoppers likely to get a replacement item," the research found. "Nearly half the shoppers polled also said they would make additional purchases. Nine out of 10 customers think it is important to be able to return merchandise to a store even if it was purchased online or over the phone, yet only half (53%) find it easy to do so."

The latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index showed that online sales in the first quarter 2008 rose 50% on Q1 2007, but total retail sales are stagnant or down. "Retailers should be trying to find extra opportunities for shoppers to buy," said Sterling Commerce's retail/CPG marketing manager, David Hogg.

The researchers found that

82% Of UK consumers want to shop in-store, online and by catalogue, with no difference in service between channels.

86% Want merchandise delivered to their home or to pick it up in-store after purchasing online

90% Want to be able to return merchandise to a store even if it was purchased online or over the phone

44% Say retailers' call centre staff should know what shoppers have viewed online

66% Of shoppers research products online before buying in-store, but 73% of 16- to 24-year-olds and AB shoppers do so

48% Want an in-store web kiosk where they can conduct product research

47% Want access to their web account while shopping in-store

26% Use a coupon or rebate offer found online, rising to 34% of 16- to 24-year-olds

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