Product returns have become a central factor in purchasing decisions as 96 percent of U.S. consumers say that merchant return policies influence their shopping decisions, according to a new report released today by leading payments technology company InComm. The report, titled “Consumer Pulse: Returns,” captured current consumer preferences, opinions, and concerns surrounding the returns ecosystem.

InComm’s Consumer Pulse also found that even one poor return experience for a consumer can cause a ripple effect for retailers. As reported, more than half (53 percent) of consumers who had a negative return experience in the past went on to share that experience with friends and family or online through social media and consumer websites.

“These findings emphasize that even after a positive shopping experience, the return experience is equally important when courting and retaining loyal customers,” said Karl Denzer, Senior Vice President of Emerging Technologies at InComm. “Merchants must create a return experience that is quick and reliable, without exposing their operations to a greater risk of return fraud.”