Value of online returns to rise to £5.6bn by 2023, driven by clothing & footwear

Online returns will increase by 27.3% over the next five years to £5.6bn, but this rapid growth represents a lower return rate as online spending will rise even faster, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The company’s latest report ‘Online Returns in the UK 2018-2023’ highlights that retailers must be prepared for the increase in online returns to successfully handle higher volumes and retain high customer satisfaction. The clothing & footwear sector will continue to account for the lion’s share of the online returns but health & beauty, DIY & gardening and furniture & floorcoverings will experience the highest growth as consumers become more confident in buying online across the majority of sectors.

Emily Salter, Retail Analyst for GlobalData comments: “Clothing & footwear is the most returned sector, which is unsurprising due to the importance of fit – especially for online pureplays as customers do not have a chance to try items on or judge the quality of products. Females account for the majority of clothing & footwear returners partly because they make up a higher proportion of online clothing & footwear shoppers, but also due to the numerous fits of female clothing.”

Retailers must innovate to reduce avoidable returns, as receiving the incorrect item is the biggest overall driver of returns excluding clothing & footwear. The majority of clothing & footwear returns are made because items do not fit properly, but retailers can improve product information and introduce features to ameliorate this. Fit technologies that recommend customers an optimum size based on factors including height, weight, age and size at another retailer, have the potential to increase conversion rates and reduce returns, especially considering many shoppers purchase items in multiple sizes with the intention of only keeping what fits.

Salter concludes: “The ease of returning items is important to consumers – 78.3% of online shoppers agree that retailers need to improve the ease of repacking items for returns, and 53.3% state that the hassle of returning goods puts them off shopping off online.

“It is important that retailers offer a range of returns options, as although returns via post dominate, many consumers use alternative methods such as returns via a convenience store. Free returns are common across most sectors and consumers have come to expect this, with 72.9% of online shoppers agreeing that they wouldn’t order from a retailer if they had to pay for returns.”

* The survey data is taken from GlobalData Retail’s 2018 e-retail survey of 10,000 shoppers.

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