Shipping and returns are a big deal for holiday shoppers

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Holiday shoppers are including returns in their plans.

A new survey reveals shipping and returns policies factor heavily into holiday purchase choices.

Almost half (485) of surveyed U.S. consumers returned at least one gift or more to the seller during the 2022 holiday season, and four in 10 expect to return at least one or more holiday purchases in 2023, according to the new Consumer Holiday Shipping Report from uShip and Censuswide, Three in 10 (31%) plan to buy multiple items knowing they’ll have the option to return later.

In addition, about one-third (32%) of respondents plan to only purchase from retailers who offer free shipping and free returns and 31% would buy from one retailer over the other if they offer free shipping and returns.

Holiday shoppers want sustainable delivery 

Sustainable shipping is a priority of nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents, while 30% indicate they plan to procrastinate their holiday shopping into either early December or the week before Christmas: One-third of respondents said delayed shipments represented their biggest pet peeve of the 2022 holiday shopping season.

Other findings

  • Three in 10 (31%) respondents said a complicated shipping and delivery process would deter them from following through on their purchase of a large item.
  • One in four respondents said the expected delivery date being too long is a holiday purchase deterrent.

“Our Consumer Holiday Shipping Report suggests ‘free returns’ is the new ‘free shipping,’” said Heather Hoover-Salomon, CEO of uShip. “With one-third of buyers making returns a part of their buying strategy, retailers need to offer a consumer-friendly return policy – or risk losing customers to the competition.”

Total sample size was 2,028 nationally representative U.S. consumers age 16 and older. Fieldwork was undertaken online by Censuswide between Sep. 5-7. 2023. 

Survey reveals what customers like – and don’t like - about returns

A recent survey of U.S. consumers by Blue Yonder also indicates that shoppers prefer accessible returns policies. Seven in 10 (69%) respondents were aware that many retailers have tightened their restrictions on returns, and they generally didn’t view the changes favorably.

More than six in 10 respondents said the new policies were inconvenient or unfair to consumers. Instituting a restocking fee has proven to be the least popular return policy, selected by more than 55% of respondents. Following were shortening return windows (20%), restricting returns to physical locations (13%), and restricting which products can be returned (10%).

Stricter return policies have deterred 59% of respondents from making a purchase. Meanwhile, lenient policies were significantly or moderately influential in making a purchase for 71% of surveyed shoppers.