Harris Poll Survey: 82% Of Shoppers Say Retailers Should Reduce Returns To Boost Sustainability

Shoppers are increasingly aware of returns’ environmental impact, and they want retailers to fix the problem: 82% of e-Commerce customers say that that online retailers have a responsibility to do all they can to reduce returns due to the negative impact processing a return has on the environment, according to a survey by The Harris Poll and Threekit.

Returns of online purchases alone generate 5 billion tons of trash and 15 million metric tons of CO2 annually, which could cause environmentally-minded shoppers to second-guess some purchases that may result in a return. Reducing these emissions means cutting back on returns in the first place, which means retailers must get to the heart of why shoppers are dissatisfied with their purchases.

The survey found that 76% of online shoppers say they would return or exchange online purchases less often if online retailers provided more accurate product images and details. This matches data from Statista, which found that more than 64% of shoppers have reported returning a purchase because the item didn’t match the description or their expectations.


Providing more and higher-quality images can reduce the rate of returns by as much as 40%, according to Ben Houston, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Threekit. The solution provider is launching the “Visuals Make a Difference” campaign, which calls on retailers to use multiple product images per page, among other initiatives, and seeks to reduce U.S. product returns and CO2 emissions by 2% each in 2020.

Curbing returns is particularly important for retailers in the wake of the latest holiday season: holiday returns are expected peak at 1.9 million on Jan. 2, a 26% increase from last year’s peak returns day, according to UPS..

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