High customer returns rates could threaten online shopping
Courier firm Fastlane International has warned that the escalating level of customer returns could undermine the success of the online shopping market, and the home delivery services which support it. David Jinks, Fastlane International’s Head of Public Relations, said that e-tailers are currently facing return rates as high as 60%, whereas 5 or 6% is the norm for traditional brick and mortar retailers.
“The return rate is growing significantly faster than the overall growth in e-commerce at the moment, and that’s a very worrying trend,” said Jinks. “The high rate of returns is costing retailers £20bn a year in the UK alone; and just one area, returned consumer electronics, $17bn in the US.”
Jinks said that consumers are not to blame: ‘The urban myth that everyone is constantly ordering clothes in several sizes and then returning those we don’t want is not really true.” Recent reports have shown that clothes’ size-related issues only add up to around 10% of total returns, said Jinks, who argued that itrs is retailers who are primarily responsible for the problem.
“Some retailers are undoubtedly being short-sighted and looking for easy sales, but in fact they are ultimately losing money on their transactions,” claimed Jinks. “Misleading descriptions – making an item sound something it isn’t – lead to increased returns. Similarly, pictures that make an item look larger or better finished are also highly likely to result in returned items; as shoppers grow less tolerant, and ever-more likely to return items that don’t exactly match their expectations.
“The same items can come back again and again and, after the second return there’s unlikely to be any margin left, so retailers are being extremely short-sighted in using misleading sales tactics.”
Jinks suggested that a more widespread adoption of the Click and Collect model – whereby a customer can buy or order goods from a store’s website and collect them from a local branch – may be one way of helping to overcome the high-returns problem. “Timeliness is also often a big issue in returns,” explained Jinks. “If an item is needed for a particular day or event and the delivery was missed, it means yet another unhappy returned delivery. Increasing our drop box click n’ collect capacity can help solve this.”