Close this search box.

Returns – not just fashion’s problem


When looking at ecommerce returns the focus is often on the fashion industry and its huge returns rate (an IRMG study found the amount of clothing items sent back can be as high as 45%), but any ecommerce product category can be sent back and consumer electronics is one sector that is recording a jump.

Research by TechSee and the Blumberg Advisory Group found the overall return rate for computer and consumer electronics products can be up to 15% of product sales; it also predicted that these rates would rise each year.

Breaking the consumer electronics sector down into product categories, televisions were the product most likely to be returned (10- 15%), followed by both desktop and laptop computers (10%) with smartphones sent back 7% of the time.

While these numbers are lower than the apparel sector, it still represents a sizable challenge for retailers. Looking at why items are sent back could be critical to lowering these numbers.

Return reasons
Unlike fashion shoppers, those looking to buy electronics online are likely to have done their research. RetailX’s look at the consumer electronics sector found shoppers are taking anything from a month to a year to make choices about the electronic goods they are purchasing.

How long consumers think of an electronics purchase before making it

On average 46% of shoppers are taking between one and six months to think about a technology purchase before making it, a percentage that climbs above 50% when those taking up to a year are factored in.

These shoppers will be moving between online and offline over this period researching and assessing before making the final purchase.

Instore collection of consumer electronic goods stands at 76% higher than all other retail goods sectors barring video, games and media.

Even after this considered approach to purchasing electronics, and visiting the store to collect, buyers can still suffer remorse for such an expensive purchase.

An Accenture study found a staggering 68% of consumer electronics returns are labelled as no trouble found (NTF). Another 27% are associated with buyer’s remorse, which can occur for reasons similar to NTF.

There is a lot that can go wrong with these advanced products. It is unsurprising then that nearly a quarter (24.9%) of electronics are returned with “defective/poor quality” listed as the reason, according to a Magneto IT Solutions study.

Second hand and refurbished tech
Similar to returned apparel items, electronics that are sent back could be heading for landfill, unless a more circular approach is taken. RetailX’s consumer electronics report highlighted a growing trend in pre-loved electronics. In the UK, Germany and France, around 10% of consumer electronics sales are of second hand goods.

Second-hand purchases of consumer electronics, 2022 (%)

The report suggested that many electronic goods have become an integral part of modern life and demand for devices is high. But the expense of these items is seeing some shoppers turn to second hand and reconditioned devices to get their hands on the latest technology.

Furthermore, consumers’ desire to be more sustainable and to off-set cost of living rises has seen many actively look to sell their second hand consumer electronics into the market both as a way to recycle and to generate money. The move to digital selling – marketplaces and other websites – has created an easy way to make this happen and has itself also driven the rise in sales of second hand devices.

The report found this is particularly prevalent in telephony, where the market for reconditioned smartphones is booming globally. In Europe that growth has been modest at around 10% – although that is still a sizable market – however in other regions in the developing world growth in reconditioned smartphones is huge. Latin America, for example, has seen segment growth 29% and India 25%. Even the US has generated 15% growth in smartphone resale.

Refurbished smartphone market growth, 2021 (%)

Read More

Register for Newsletter

Group 4 Copy 3Created with Sketch.

Receive 3 newsletters per week

Group 3Created with Sketch.

Gain access to all Top500 research

Group 4Created with Sketch.

Personalise your experience on