THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

04 April 2019

Happy returns make for happy customers

Royal Mail published a report on delivery for online shopping, Delivery Matters. In this guest blog post, they explain how businesses can make their customers happy by making their online shopping, and returns, experience as convenient as possible...

As online shoppers become increasingly savvy, they look for reasons to shop with a particular brand. The perfect example of this is the growing trend of being able to ‘try before you buy’ – already offered by numerous retailers. This is a convenient and flexible way of shopping online and is proving increasingly popular with online shoppers. In fact, 76% of consumers said they would ‘definitely’ or ‘maybe’ purchase more items if they were offered a ‘try before you buy’ option, with shoppers saying they would order an average of three extra items each month.

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With 17% of global retailers already adopting this kind of model, it’s important to consider putting ‘try before you buy’ at the heart of your returns offering – and staying one step ahead of your competitors when it comes to customer satisfaction. By giving people what they want (and expect), it is more likely they will continue to shop with you in the future.

One in three (34%) of those that return items have used ‘try before you buy’ services. 18 – 34-year-old shoppers (49%) are more likely to use a service like this if it was available. Clothing (52%) and footwear (39%) are the categories people are most likely to use this service for, followed by electrical goods (39%). Two in five shoppers (40%) believe they would purchase more items if a retailer offered a ‘try before you buy service’.

Reasons for returns

The average online shopper in the UK sends back an online purchase every month*. Over half (53%) of those that return clothing or footwear said the most common reason to return is because the item didn’t fit or was the wrong size.

The study, part of Royal Mail’s annual Delivery Matters report, reveals women are more likely to return something because the item is not what they expected. Men are more likely to return a non-clothing item because it’s incompatible or not useful for its intended purpose.

Clothing (75%), electrical goods (42%) and computer software/hardware (33%) are the most commonly returned items. Over half of clothing is returned because it didn’t fit or was the wrong size. For electrical goods, the most common reason for returns is because the item was faulty or arrived damaged.

What online shoppers want

According to the study, six in ten (60%) online shoppers will not use a retailer again if they have a difficult returns experience so it’s important to get it right. To keep customers returning to purchase time and again, retailers should make sure their returns experience is a simple and affordable one.

There is a recurring theme when it comes to what online shoppers want when they return items: ease and convenience. People want the option of local, easy access, as well as knowing they won’t have to wait indoors all day for someone to come and pick their parcel up. They also want to use a returns provider they can trust. Royal Mail continues to lead the way on that score, with over three times as many online shoppers trusting them to return their item over their closest competition. Shoppers need to be able to trust that their items will get back to who they bought them from safely to get their refund. With branches up and down the UK, people prefer returning items at the Post Office® more than anywhere else.

Speed of refund after an item has been sent back is also important, with 93% of shoppers believing it’s crucial to receive a notification of a refund after they have returned something. Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents think it’s important for retailers to provide clear returns information on their site and at the point of purchase, as well as wanting marketplace sellers to make returns information easy to find (68%).

Peace of mind and reassurance are key when returning items so it’s important to provide tracking. Not only does tracking allow someone to keep up-to-date on where an item is at any given time, it also provides the much-needed proof of posting and delivery which are vital when someone is expecting a refund.

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Key conclusions

‘Try before you buy’ is a huge trend that appears set to stay. Smart sellers can satisfy savvy shoppers by offering them this convenient, flexible returns option. What’s also clear is that the returns process needs to be as easy as possible with many online buyers not prepared to shop with a retailer again if they have a difficult returns experience.

Factors such as speed of refund remain important, as does clarity of information about a company’s returns policy at the point of purchase. Shoppers now expect more from sellers and increasingly want to be able to return an item how they want, where they want and when they want. If retailers keep up with change and meet customers’ expectations then shoppers will continue to buy from them again and again.

*Taken as an average from the research that revealed online shoppers, on average, returned three packages within a three month period.

The research was independently conducted by Trinity McQueen and based on a sample group of 1,503 UK online shoppers that make returns.