As anyone in ecommerce retail knows, a sale isn’t really a sale when there’s the threat of a return hanging over the transaction, and according to research carried out for Royal Mail, around half of online shoppers make that decision in just three days.
The Royal Mail research also identified some of the main reasons behind those returns. For 12% it is because the item, once received, didn’t look the way it was depicted online. Receiving something that didn’t match their expectations was given as the reason by 20% of shoppers, with 36% blaming poor fit.
One possible reason for missed expectations could be down to the phenomenon that sparked the is it white and gold, or is it blue and black? arguments that raged online about a certain dress.
Patrick Fagan, consumer psychologist and lecturer at London College of Fashion, said: “That dress … showed us just how varied human colour perception can be especially when clothes are viewed online. It may well be that many online shoppers see the items they order completely differently once they arrive and suddenly realise that they have made a mistake.”
Missed expectations, particularly around new customers’ purchases, can lead to the loss of an ongoing customer relationship, as Clear Returns’ CEO Vicky Brock outlined to eDelivery: “There are huge numbers of shoppers who don’t want to have to return things. For them it just means something went wrong. The lost lifetime relationship, even when the return is smooth, can be enormous.”
Nick Landon, managing director of Royal Mail Parcels said the carrier wants to make returns easy for shoppers: “The ease of returning an item is a key part of a customer’s overall online shopping experience. We know from talking to online shoppers that a large number of people read the returns policy before deciding where to buy. We have pulled out all the stops to be able to offer a solution through our Returns Portal and our Tracked Returns products that meets both the retailer’s and consumers’ needs.”
Last year, Royal Mail launched a new Returns Portal, to help online retailers better manage customer returns by giving them full visibility of items as they make their way back to warehouses and stores. In recent weeks it has launched other new services and features, including weekend collections for international parcels, and increased compensation on tracked items.
The subject of returns will be something eDelivery editor Sean Fleming returns to (if you’ll pardon the ham-fisted pun) in the next edition of eDelivery Magazine, which will be published later this summer.