A YouGov survey for Retail Week’s How They’ll Spend It 2024 report has found that three-quarters (74%) of shoppers are reluctant to buy from a retailer who has previously charged them to send back an item.
The report – published in partnership with parcel delivery management and shipping software company nShift – highlights that the end-to-end returns process is estimated to cost UK retailers £7bn (US$8.7bn) annually.
Another two-thirds (69%) of consumers said they would also prioritize free delivery over items being sent to them more quickly, with only 3% saying same-day delivery was as important to them. Additionally, almost half (43%) said they’ve abandoned a purchase in the past six months because their preferred delivery option was not available.
H&M reversed its September decision to charge shoppers for online purchases returned in-store – later clarifying that customers would only be charged a £1.99 (US$2.49) fee for online returns made to its warehouse.
Retail Week’s report also found shoppers are curbing their spending across the board, with half (54%) now trading down and buying cheaper or own-brand grocery items in the run-up to Christmas. Buying food and grocery items was still a priority for 80% of those polled, compared to fashion (15%), health and beauty (12%) and toys and other gifting (10%). Just 5% said they would prioritize buying gadgets and electrics. Also, 36% said they’re making most of their purchases in physical stores compared to 28% who said they’re shopping mostly online.
Lisa Byfield-Green, data and insights director at Retail Week, said, “Charging shoppers to return items by post is now relatively commonplace for the sector, but multichannel retailers should ensure that returns to store are always free as customers see brands, not channels.
“The best way for retailers to respond to the returns issue is to help customers make more informed choices. Providing accurate sizing information can help customers feel more confident and beyond that, there are now plenty of technology tools available to retailers to help customers select the right size.
“We have seen avatars deployed on Zalando and also John Lewis’s fashion rental site that allows customers to visualize exactly how a garment will look on them so they can make better decisions. Since deploying avatars in the jeans category, Zalando reported that returns decreased by 10% and customers were less likely to order multiple sizes. When returns are necessary, retailers can incentivize customers by charging less for the preferred return option.”
Read more key returns updates from the parcel and postal technology industry, here.