Just as consumers cite free shipping as a key factor when they make an online purchase, they also like free returns.

Returns are a fact of life in retail, and they are an even bigger part of doing business online, especially in apparel and footwear. Studies find the return rate hovers around 8% for store purchases, but anywhere from 20% to 30% for online sales, depending on product category.

Consumers return apparel more frequently than other items, with 75% of consumers saying they had done so in the past year, according to a survey of 1,005 shoppers conducted in October by reverse logistics provider Optoro Inc. Shoes ranked as the third-most commonly returned product, with 32% of consumers surveyed having returned them in the past year, just behind electronics at 33%. More e-retailers today are offering free returns to get an edge over the competition.

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