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Why shoppers return their online purchases: Royal Mail study

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What lies behind an online shopper’s decision to return their purchases? New Royal Mail research suggests that on the whole, buyers send products back when they fail to live up to their expectations.

Some 12% of 2,032 questioned in a YouGov study said they had returned an internet purchase because it looked different to pictures they saw online, while 20% said the quality wasn’t as they’d expected – and 36% because it didn’t fit. Shoppers are quick to act, with more than half sending an item back within three days of receiving it.

Patrick Fagan, consumer psychologist and lecturer at the London College of Fashion, says one factor is likely to be the difficulty in perceiving colour correctly through a screen. “That dress, and more recently the jacket, 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,” he said. “In addition, more and more consumers are looking to try on clothes in the comfort of their own home, where they are in control of the lighting and can team them up with their own accessories to get a better idea of how suitable the item is.”

The research follows the launch of Royal Mail’s returns portal last year, which captures information on the items that are being returned, on the customer, and their reason for the return.

Nick Landon, managing director, Royal Mail Parcels , said: “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.”

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