According to new research, a convenient and inexpensive return process can sway customers to shop with a particular retailer over others. A survey released by JDA found that 88% of respondents said that they consider the ease of returns in purchasing decisions. This figure is almost as high as Voxware’s finding that 97% of consumers consider the returns process as part of future intentions to shop with a particular retailer.

Both Voxware research and new findings from JDA suggest that returns matter to online shoppers because they expect to return an online purchase. Voxware research suggests that customers may favor companies with fast and convenient return policies because they expect retailers will fail to ship the correct item on occasion. This survey found that 57% of respondents had made a return because the retailer shipped the wrong item. Additionally, not only did JDA find that 50% of shoppers returned at least one item during the year, but the research also found that nearly one third of respondents indicated that they regularly order 2 or more of the same item in different sizes or colors to try at home with the intent to return the item that doesn’t fit or that they don’t like.

Whether making a return due to retailer error or because they need to return an item that didn’t fit or they didn’t like, customers cite two main frustrations with the online returns process. The first frustration is cost: 62% of respondents said that their main frustration is paying for postage or packaging to ship an item back to a retailer, which suggests that retailers who are able to offer free shipping will be able to offer a superior experience that may even drive sales. The second frustration is inconvenience: 28% of shoppers are frustrated when they cannot return items at their local store. Companies that provide a convenient returns process for the consumer will be able to attract more customers by offering this convenience.

Though managing the returns process can prove challenging and expensive for online retailers, companies can take steps to reduce the costs of offering free returns shipping to customers and make it easy to manage inventory across channels. One of the best ways to meet increasing consumer expectations is by implementing supply chain technology that brings data from multiple available sources into a single portal. Software like Voxware’s Intellestra helps companies reduce outgoing shipping costs by rerouting orders to distribution centers closer to a customer’s home, which reduces the overall shipping cost associated with the order. Intellestra can also help companies see inventory across channels and enable retailers to take returns in stores where the item can be resold eliminating entirely returns costs incurred by retailers.

Even the most loyal customers think about returns before hitting the checkout button, and companies that are able to deliver a convenient and cost effective customer experience, even after the initial transaction is complete, will be able to attract and keep customers who expect convenient and free returns especially during the holidays.