The growth in home deliveries has cut car journeys, eased congestion and lowered emissions. However, global couriers Fastlane International warned that the escalating level of customer returns is threatening to undermine the environmental benefits of internet shopping.
David Jinks, a spokesperson for Fastlane International says: “Retailers must address the serious issue of ever-increasing customer returns.”
E-tailers are grappling with return rates as high as 60%, whereas 5 or 6% is the norm for traditional brick and mortar retailers. Jinks reveals: “The return rate is growing significantly faster than the overall growth in e-commerce at the moment, and that’s a very worrying trend. The high rate of returns is costing retailers £20bn a year. But it’s the environmental cost that is so concerning. Unnecessary returns mean more vehicle movements, more congestion and increased pollution.”
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. Of course many of us have done exactly this from time to time, but as industry analysts Clear Returns reveal, clothes’ size-related issues only add up to around 10% of total returns” Jinks explains.
Explaining why returns are rising, he adds: ‘Some retailers are undoubtedly being short-sighted and looking for easy sales, but in fact they are ultimately losing money on their transactions. 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.”
Timeliness is also often a big issue in returns. A new industry report by IMRG this week has highlighted the ever increasing demand for click and collect. If an item is needed for a particular day or event and the delivery was missed, it means yet another unhappy returned delivery. Increasing drop box click n’ collect capacity can help solve this.