Shoppers Expected to Continue to Shop Online this Holiday Season, High Volumes of Returns Anticipated

The survey found that 81% of shoppers plan to do more holiday shopping online than in previous years.

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Inmar Intelligence released survey results today, which highlight planned holiday shopping and returns habits of more than 1,000 consumers across the United States. 

The survey found that 81 percent of shoppers plan to do more holiday shopping online than in previous years. What’s more is that over a third (39 percent) will do all of their holiday shopping online this year, as concerns about exposure to COVID-19 remain top of mind. 

Concerns surrounding COVID-19 have led to a shift in consumer returns preferences as well. Sixty-seven percent of holiday shoppers say they'd rather ship their returns to avoid the potential COVID-19 exposure of standing in returns lines in stores, meaning omnichannel retailers will have to handle more individually shipped or mailed returns. This can slow processing of returns in retail distribution centers where the majority of returns may typically arrive already aggregated in truckloads, and can slow shopper refunds for retailers who inspect returns before refunding. 

Other data from the Inmar Intelligence survey indicates solid shopper intentions to continue the shift to e-commerce:

  • 81% will do more online holiday shopping than in previous years
  • 40% will do all of their holiday shopping online because of the pandemic
  • 74% are concerned about COVID-19 exposure from holiday shopping in stores
  • 67% prefer to ship their holiday returns this year rather than return in stores because of the perceived risk of COVID-19 exposure

“Retailers will need to be especially diligent in preparing for higher volumes of individual, shipped returns packages this holiday season. The shift to e-commerce during the pandemic demands solid returns management processes and a smooth customer experience, while reducing costs and eliminating waste,” said Ken Bays, Vice President of Product Development at Inmar Intelligence. “Maximizing value recovery will be more important than ever with the expected high returns volume, while an efficient, easy customer return experience will be key to increasing shopper loyalty and driving sales.”

COVID-19 continues to impact consumer behavior, and as the rapid growth in online shopping continues, returns must be a key component of a retailer's customer-satisfaction strategy. A seamless returns process is crucial for retailers to build and retain customer relationships, while also gaining valuable insight into product performance and ultimately impacting the bottom line. 

Those concerned about how to prepare for 2020 holiday returns during the COVID-19 pandemic can attend Inmar’s webinar, “Holiday Returns -- What To Expect and How To Prepare,” at 2:00 p.m., Eastern Time, September 30. Returns and logistics expert Michael Foy will share more consumer data highlights, set some expectations and share best practices for handling the massive shift to e-commerce driven by the pandemic.