Top online retailers are failing on returns

Retailers are “failing” to build customer experience into online returns and risk losing future sales due to communication “black-holes” and a “lack of choice” in the returns process, according to ordering tests carried out on 150 leading UK retailers.

Operations experience platform parcelLab benchmarked retailers’ performance around key metrics including checkout, shipping and returns, which showed the average number of options for returning products offered by UK retailers was just two.

Over a quarter (27 per cent) only gave one option for sending back an item, “limiting customer options and adding friction into the returns experience”, said parcelLab.

Most retailers (54 per cent) were still asking customers to return an item to store, despite many stores being closed under COVID-19 lockdown restrictions - a move which has forced many retail businesses to extend Christmas returns policies.

While 48 per cent of retailers did offer to accept returns via mail, over a quarter (26 per cent) still expected customers to pay for their own returns.

A poll by Klarna showed that 78 per cent of shoppers would buy more from retailers if returns were free.

In addition to a lack of returns options, many retailers are failing to regularly communicate with shoppers during the returns experience, leaving customers “in the dark” about the status of their return or their refund.

While 81 per cent of UK retailers did confirm receipt of a returned item once it arrived back at their warehouse, 59 per cent only communicated once with a customer during the entire returns process - just 7 per cent of retailers communicated more than twice.

“This suggests many retailers are missing out on the opportunity to re-engage the shopper, offer them up alternative items or encourage future sales,” said parcelLab.

Julian Krenge, chief technical officer of parcelLab, said: commented: “Lockdown hasn’t just brought new cohorts of shoppers online, but it’s also encouraged consumers to try out new brands online, so it really is a case of making sure first impressions count.

“Even if the product isn’t quite right for that particular order, delivering a seamless returns experience can go a long way to saving future sales, and key to that is ensuring that the customer has enough choice to make the return convenient and enough information that they feel supported and kept in the loop at each stage.”

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