25% of Top500 brands now charging consumers for returns

Despite growing concerns around the impact the rising cost of living will have on consumer spending this Christmas, research reveals that a quarter (25%) of the UK’s leading brands such as Zara and Boohoo are now charging shoppers to return purchases they have made online; a year-on-year increase of 14%. 

The state of operations experience management study series 2022, conducted by parcelLab, an operations experience management platform, found that of those consumers being charged for making a return, the average cost is £3.53 and it takes an average of nine days for refunds to be processed.

To undertake this research, parcelLab placed orders with the UK’s 200 leading ecommerce brands, according to InternetRetailing’s RXUK 500 2021 rankings, which were then analysed based on their checkout, shipping and returns processes.

The study shows that just under a third (30%) of brands only give consumers two options when it comes to how they can make a return, the same proportion as in 2021. Of the return options being given to shoppers, almost two thirds (63%) of brands offer drop off at a parcel shop (including Hermes, DPD, Collect+ etc.).

 Half (51%) of retailers enable in-store returns, down 3% from 2021, while those offering Royal Mail returns is 49%, which is similar to 2021 (48%). A fifth (20%) of brands ask consumers to arrange the return themselves, while comparatively, over a third (38%) offer pick up or collection services.

Despite the increasing focus being placed on sustainability, the findings highlight that 87% of leading retailers do not offer paperless returns. Over a quarter (28%) use a returns portal or platform, a similar figure to 2021 (29%).

When it comes to communication, the findings indicate that while a significant proportion (84%) of brands are sending consumers at least one message during the returns process – often to confirm they have received the return – just 7% of retailers are sending three or more. Almost half (46%) of the carriers aren’t sending any messages to shoppers, while 16% of brands are failing to send any communication at all. 

Tobias Buxhoidt, Founder and CEO of parcelLab, explains: “For consumers and retailers alike, returns continue to be one of the biggest pain points when it comes to online shopping. Failure to have the right processes and policies in place can mean the difference between a customer buying from a brand or competitor which retailers must take note of in the current economic environment. With the upcoming peak shopping season sitting against a backdrop of rising costs and reduced spending, it is more important than ever to give shoppers a seamless and positive returns experience.”

“As the study highlights, while there have been some areas of growth, there is still significant work to be done by leading retailers to build consumer confidence where returns are concerned. Keeping customers informed at each stage of the return and refund process is vital to make them feel taken care of, help to reinforce the relationship, and ultimately encourage them to shop with the brand again in the future. With the right returns technology and policies in place, retail brands have a huge opportunity to directly engage with customers, improve satisfaction, upsell purchases and build long-term loyalty.”

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