Frustrated online shoppers abandoning stores with poor returns processes

Posted on 01/06/2011 by Marketing
  • Poor returns experiences lead to 58% of online shoppers permanently shunning outlets
  • £1.3bn worth of online purchases returned annually
  • 12% of online shoppers have not returned unwanted items, leaving them out of pocket

New research1 released today by CollectPlus sends a warning to retailers of the cost of failing to provide an effective returns process. The poll of 2,000 online shoppers reveals that 58% of shoppers, once they have had a bad experience with deliveries or returns will abandon that online retailer permanently.

Collectively, around £1.3bn2 worth of goods is returned each year. However, research released today reveals that one in ten (12%) online shoppers have been left out of pocket as result of poor returns policies which left them unable to return unwanted goods in time for a refund.

The research highlights for the first time the frustrations of online shopping which has grown into an industry worth £49.8bn annually3. The hassle of returning goods to the local post office tops the list of complaints, with over a quarter (28%) of shoppers citing this as a frustration, closely followed by the cost of postage (18%) with a majority of those questioned (59%) feeling such returns should be free.

Mark Lewis, CollectPlus CEO, said:

The hassle and cost of online returns has been the dark secret of retail for too long, with our research showing that shoppers are abandoning outlets that fail to get it right. Modern shoppers are demanding returns processes that match their lifestyles and will no longer tolerate queuing at their local post office to return defective or unwanted goods.”

The lack of choice and convenience in returns is leading to an astonishing 20% of unwanted goods dumped at the local charity shop or thrown into the bin. Furniture and electrical goods were the least likely to be returned, with shoppers from the South West (16%) the most likely to be lumbered with unwanted goods. Shoppers from London and Yorkshire were the most likely to regularly return online purchases, closely followed by those from Scotland and the South East.

The impact of shopper frustration on retailer brand loyalty is evident from the research. One in three (30%) shoppers holds the retailer directly responsible for a poor delivery or returns experience. The research also shows that many shoppers may abandon the purchase before checkout, with half of online shoppers (47%) always checking the returns policy before purchase.

Keith Basnett, Chief Operating Officer at Shop Direct Group commented:

“At Shop Direct Group, customer choice is important to us and we offer a wide range of delivery and collection options, giving our customers maximum flexibility and convenience. CollectPlus has added to our comprehensive returns service and gives us a significant advantage over other retailers. It is the crucial last mile of any e-retail experience and if it is not right, it can have a major impact on our reputation.

“This is an area in which our customers appreciate clarity and choice and it is crucial to offer convenient alternatives for those who cannot afford to wait at home for deliveries during working hours.”

[1] Research of 2000 UK adults in May 2010 – commissioned by CollectPlus and carried out by YouGov

[2] Average return rates calculated against latest IMRG figures for online retail sales in 2009

[3] IMRG retail figures, 2009

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