Inmar Intelligence Survey Finds Only 52 Percent of Retailers Are Optimistic That They Will Meet and Exceed 2020's Online Sales Numbers This Holiday Season

Inmar Intelligence | November 16, 2021

Inmar Intelligence, a data-driven technology-enabled services company, today announced findings from a recent 2021 Holiday Returns Insight survey. 

It found that when compared to the 2020s holiday shopping season, only 52 percent of retailers are optimistic that they can meet and potentially exceed demand this year. Those less optimistic had concerns regarding existing supply chain constraints, transportation partners, insufficient labor and increased competition. 

The survey also examines how retailers are responding to changes in consumer behavior related to the pandemic, how they will handle seasonal returns, and what shoppers can expect to receive when they make returns. 

With Covid-19 upending in-store shopping experiences, many retailers were forced to quickly pivot to expand their online e-commerce offerings. The shift to e-commerce changed the retail shopping industry as consumers became comfortable shopping online for items they previously shopped for in-store. This survey data shows that for the upcoming holiday shopping season, retailers will need to review their returns process for items purchased both in-store and online.  

Companies are adapting to different models for handling pickup and returns. 70 percent of retailers confirmed that they allow buying online, pick up in-store options for their consumers. When it comes to shipping, 20 percent offer free shipping on minimum orders of $10 or less, while nearly 70 percent offer the same for minimum cart prices of $50 or less. On the returns front, 58 percent of retailers said they accept online purchase returns in-store. 

Some additional stats from the survey include:

  • 58 percent of retailers offer instant credit for returns.
  • 47 percent of retailers provide in-store offers or coupons for returns.
  • Merchants were asked to estimate their expected return rate (units returned versus units purchased) for the upcoming holiday season.
    • 39 percent expect a return rate of 10% or less.
    • 30 percent expect their return rate to be in the range of 11% - 20%.
    • 31 percent expect returns to exceed 20%.
  • When a consumer does return an item, only 66 percent of retailers provide customers with at least one or two updates on their return status.

“The holiday shopping season has always been a staple in the retail industry as retailers rely on the high volume of sales,” said Rob Zomok, EVP and President of SupplyTech at Inmar Intelligence. “However, a crucial part of the customer experience and success of retailers is dependent on their ability to process and track returns at an efficient rate. With customers shopping both in-store and online at higher rates this season, this will be an important test for retailers.” 

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