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Free delivery does not lead to higher returns: study

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Offering free delivery does not automatically lead to higher levels of returns, research from a delivery management company has found.

Whistl questioned 1,000 adults across the UK and found that 60% of those questioned did not pay for delivery and do not want to pay for returns.  Rather, customers said they return some types of product more than others. The items most likely to be returned were clothes and shoes, electronics equipment, from PCs to phones, and home and kitchen appliances. Least likely to be returned were books, pet products and video games. 

The research found that younger customers, aged between 18 and 24, were most likely to check the returns policy before buying, in particular doing so when the item was for the garden, a car accessory or a DIY item. Shoppers checked policies after buying when it came to kitchenware, furniture, child and baby items. Gift return policies are the most likely to be viewed after delivery when someone is looking to return an item. Those buying pet products, books, and printer cartridges were the least likely to look at a returns policy. 

More than half (53%) of respondents said that if a returns policy didn’t meet their expectations, they would be much less likely to use that retailer. Within that 53%, female shoppers were more likely to be deterred than men, and older shoppers more so than younger ones.

Researchers ranked the three elements that respondents considered most important in a good returns policy. Top of the list were free returns with prepaid postage, followed by quick refunds and pre-printed returns labels. The speed of refund mattered less to shoppers as their income increased. Those earning less than £10,000 a year said that fast refunds were the most important factor in a returns policy, while those earning more than £60,000 were more concerned about having a simple and easy returns process. 

Melanie Darvall, director, marketing and communications at Whistl, said: “The key lessons for retailers when considering their online returns policy is to know your audience, provide a service that meets the needs of your target customer, whatever the age or income profile. If your target audience is diverse and complex then consider working with a partner that can provide a multi-option returns policy that can satisfy the needs of all your potential customers.”

Image: Fotolia

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