Posts well positioned to help retailers improve returns experience

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According to the latest data gathered by UK-based operations experience platform ParcelLab, retailers are failing to build customer experience into online returns, and risk losing future sales and shoppers’ loyalty due to communication black holes and a lack of choice in the returns process.

Research conducted across 150 UK retailers for the company’s Operations Experience 2021 – How Does UK Retail Measure Up? report, which benchmarked retailers’ performance around key metrics including checkout, shipping and returns, showed that the average number of options for returning products offered by UK retailers was just two. Over a quarter (27%) only gave one option for sending back an item, limiting customers options and adding friction into the returns experience.

Julian Krenge, co-founder and CTO of ParcelLab, said, “Retailers who don’t cater for the needs of customers in the returns process risk eroding customer loyalty and losing future sales, just at the time they need to be capitalizing on the accelerated and sustained shift to e-commerce.”

In ParcelLab’s research, most retailers (54%) were still asking customers to return an item to store, despite many stores now being closed under national Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. While 48% of retailers did offer to accept returns via mail, over a quarter (26%) still expected customers to pay for their own returns, in spite of a recent poll by Klarna showing that 78% of shoppers would buy more from retailers if returns were free and Royal Mail’s data suggesting 60% of online shoppers wouldn’t shop with a retailer again if they have a difficult returns experience.

Royal Mail has recently introduced its Parcel Collect service, which will enable customers to carry out returns easier as parcels are collected from their homes by postal workers on their daily rounds. This month (January), Hermes launched its ‘What’s in the Box?’ service in the UK to improve the returns experience for its retail customers. The service enables consumers to inform the retailer exactly which items they are returning in advance.

According to Brody Buhler, managing director – consulting, post and parcel, Accenture, posts are well positioned to help retailers streamline returns: “The question for post and parcel organizations is how they can support retailers in making returns as fast, friction-free, and cost-effective as possible.”

Buhler suggests three ways posts can help e-commerce companies improve returns including enabling dynamic friction, dynamic routing, and end-to-end services. Read more in Returns – the next wave for posts.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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