ASOS moves to clamp down on ‘serial returners’

ASOS has made a change to its returns policy, in an attempt to crack down on the problem of ‘serial returners’.

In an email sent to customers, the online fashion retailer explained that it has increased the time customers can return items from 28 days to 45 days. If items are returned within 28 days, refunds will be given as normal, and up to 45 days customer will now get an ASOS gift voucher for the amount spent.

Crucially though, the message continued: “We also need to make sure our returns remain sustainable for us and for the environment, so if we notice an unusual pattern, we might investigate and take action – it’s unlikely to affect you, but we wanted to give you a heads up.”

Earlier this year, it was reported that ASOS had begun scouring the Facebook and Instagram profiles of customers linked with repeated and suspicious patterns of returns. This relates to customers who say they have returned a package which ASOS has not received, but still demand a refund.

Research last year from Barclaycard revealed that UK shoppers are returning £7 billion of purchases every year, leading to a ‘phantom economy’ of lost revenue for retailers.

Similar research showed that nearly half of UK retailers are planning to ban shoppers who deliberately and regularly buy multiple items with the intent to return some.

Commenting on the latest move, Steve Gershik, chief marketing officer at inRiver, pointed out that free delivery and returns have been a major driving force behind the consumer allure of ASOS, but its new policy highlights even industry leaders are not immune to the crippling cost of returns.

“Although initially put in place to protect online shoppers’ from items that didn’t meet expectations, the returns process could instead become a lose-lose scenario for retailers and consumers alike.

“As the trend of serial returners continues to escalate, ASOS is monitoring purchase patterns more closely and shoppers could risk missing out on the benefit of free returns if operating profit margin doesn't improve,” he continued.

“That said, the retailer's newly extended returns period will enhance its already much lauded customer experience and stimulate sales,” commented Gershik, adding: “The introduction of gift vouchers for returns made between 28-45 days after purchase offers flexibility to customers, however is also a clear indicator that it has cost front of mind.”

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