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Shoppers now more willing to pay for returns, study suggests

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The end of free returns is in sight, a new study suggests, as retailers from H&M to Zara now charge customers to send back their unwanted online orders. 

One in four now say they are wiling to pay for the return themselves, according to a new report. However, finds the study, that relies on shoppers being well-informed about what returning an item will involve.

Some 80% of respondents to the E-commerce Delivery Compass report say they regularly return a purchase. Another 72% almost always check the return conditions before ordering and two-thirds (65%) say they will even abandon an order if clear return information is missing. 

There’s a sustainability angle to the reesrch, with most (57%) agreeing that returns are bad for the environment. And while 72% of respondents said they would order more often if returns were free, that has dropped from 74% a year earlier.

How much consumers are exactly willing to pay for returns depends on the order value. Shoppers are willing to pay about £4 in return costs for a £15 order, rising to £5.80 for an order of £150, says Sendcloud. 

“Retailers often see the returns process as a real nightmare and have been struggling with the rising cost of returns for years. Since Zara’s announcement to charge return fees, the end of the free era seems near,” says Rob van den Heuvel, CEO and co-founder of Sendcloud, which operates a returns portal.

“Although paid returns take some getting used to for many consumers, our research shows that many online shoppers are quite willing to pay for it. The only condition is that the return policy is transparent and returns are easy. That is where many retailers still have some work to do.” 

The study was carried out via Nielsen, which questioned 9,004 participants from nine countries, including 1,000 in the UK, US and seven European markets in August 2022.

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