High-End Online Retailers Exploit Trend With Free Return Shipping

Free shipping? That’s so last year. Now there’s free reverse shipping.

With some online retailers offering free return shipping for years, such as Zappos.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), other web and catalog retailers are joining the trend this holiday season to enable consumers to return their packages back for free. Saks Fifth Avenue (NYSE:SKS), Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) and Neiman Marcus are just a few of the new big names with additional ones expected to do so in 2012.

According to Chad White, research director at Responsy, “Free returns is the next big thing, especially among apparel retailers. Shipping and returns are such a friction point that retailers are moving toward everyday programs.”

Retailers are turning to the reverse shipping to please consumers, who are shopping more and more online. For this holiday season, according to ComScore $31 million has been spent online — a 15% increase over last year.

In the last two years, free shipping has become more of the standard and for some consumers, it is a determinant on whether or not they purchase an item online or not. This has attributed to 93% of retailers offering this during the holiday season as compared to last year’s 85%, says the National Retail Federation.

This is great for consumers — 73% recently said in a MarketLive survey that promoted “free returns” can help them when making online buying decisions. These freebies for consumers can turn browsers into buyers.