How do you say…’never mind’?

We asked cross-border shoppers about their pain thresholds—with returns

If US consumers thought (domestic) returns were a sadistic ritual inflicted on them by retailers…just imagine how cross-border shoppers must feel about returning products shipped from abroad. Sensitivity around higher order values, negotiating fiddly international shipping processes, waiting through long transit times, and enduring the wonders of duty drawbacks all create a perfect storm of inconvenience that would make any cross-border shopper think twice.

  • To help brands focus their efforts on when and where to prioritize cross-border returns convenience, we asked consumers in 6 key international markets about their cross-border returns pain thresholds.
  • Specifically, we asked consumers: what’s the minimum purchase value that would make it worthwhile to ship an item purchased online back to the US as a return? In other words, how expensive does a product (purchased from the US) need to be before you think submitting a return is ‘worth it’?
At what point is making a cross-border return worth it?

Our main takeaways from these responses:

  • Overall, cross-border consumers appear to be both rational and knowledgeable.
    • Those living in countries with tougher import/export restrictions or longer transit times from the US generally place a premium on the necessity for returns.
    • Canadian consumers, who have the most access to the US market and highest expectations around shipping speed, have the lowest threshold among the six countries surveyed—placing the minimum value of a returnable product at an average of USD $31.
    • European (British, French, and German) consumers peg minimum value of returns almost identically, in the $44-49 range. Moreover, how each of these countries rank on minimum return value is nearly identical to the answers they gave us when we asked about how they defined fast, acceptable, and slow shipping from the US. (Spoiler: German consumers expect shipping to be slower, while British and French consumers are more likeminded).
  • A couple of countries, however, seemed to have more extreme responses:
    • Australians at $34 have a much lower minimum return threshold than expected, given how long it can take to ship a product there from the US (Australian shoppers think up to 10 days is an acceptable shipping speed), and how much more restrictive Australian import policies have become in recent years.
    • Meanwhile, Chinese consumers, at $83, appear have an exaggerated minimum returns threshold. This is likely driven by a higher rate of luxury goods purchased from the US and a tacit acknowledgement of how complex shipping products into and out of China can be.

BOXpollTM by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture,and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult //2094 US consumers surveyed March 2021.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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