Consumers Spend More with Free Returns

For consumers, it can be intimidating to make a big purchase online. However, a new study from Walker Sands reveals the amount that consumers are willing to spend increases significantly when there is less risk associated with making a purchase.

The digital agency's 2014 Future of Retail Study shows that 45 percent of consumers have spent as much as $500 on an online purchase without seeing the product first, while 16 percent have spent up to $1,000 and 10 percent have spent even more than that. That said, the study found that if free returns are offered consumers will spend even more without seeing a product first. For example, 21 percent would spend between $501 and $1000 and 30 percent would spend more than $1,000.

In addition to free returns, the study found that 80 percent of consumers would shop online more often if free shipping was offered, 66 percent would shop online more if one-day shipping was offered and 48 percent would shop online more frequently if easy returns were offered.

"As shoppers become more comfortable purchasing products online, retailers must ensure they're making the path to purchase - and return - as easy as possible, or they'll go elsewhere," says Tory Patrick, account director and lead of the retail technology practice at Walker Sands. "Consumers are ready to jump into the convenience of regular online purchases, but want less risk and hassle associated with making a mistake and needing to make a return."

And while consumers purchase nearly every type of item online nowadays, the most popular types of items purchased in the last year are consumer electronics (69 percent), books (67 percent), clothing and apparel (63 percent) and household goods (38 percent).

"Aside from luxury goods and home improvement supplies, our study revealed that at least one in five consumers have purchased products in categories across the board in the past last year," says Patrick. "The in-store experience must tie in to online sales to keep consumers engaged in every industry. The importance of ecommerce is no longer just for specific types of retailers - an online presence is now required for every type of business."

In addition, the study shed light on the dominance of Amazon, revealing that 95 percent of consumers have purchased items from the ecommerce juggernaut within the last year. And while 40 percent of consumers are willing to purchase any kind of product on, the items consumers are most opposed to purchase from the site are food (37 percent), luxury goods (29 percent) and consumer packaged goods (11 percent).

"While it's not surprising that more consumers are shopping online, the rate at which they're spending money and shopping on third-party websites, such as Amazon, continues to be a threat for retailers across industries, especially as the frequency and type of products they're willing to purchase on the site continues to expand," says Patrick. "Even for items that have the highest opposition rates, the majority of consumers are willing to purchase them online."