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More than 80% of consumers believe retail returns processes need to improve

Tolerance with returns continues to wane, according to new research on customer expectations from Klarna, with 82% of consumers saying that retailers need to improve their returns capabilities.

The survey found that 84% of online shoppers would turn their back on a retailer after a bad returns experience and 84% say they are more likely to buy from and 86% are more likely to come back to online merchants who offer free returns.

A slow refund process was cited as the most frustrating element of returning items bought online, according to 36% of consumers. Other frustrations include having to print off return forms when they don’t have a printer (25%), the inconvenience of queuing to return at the post office (23%) and not being able to return items in store that they’ve bought online (21%).

The survey showed that with Covid impacting the ability to get out and about over the past 12 months, 21% of online shoppers say they’ve reluctantly kept an item they were unhappy with because it was too much effort to return it. 12% have avoided returning items at the post office because it’s difficult to social distance, while 11% have gifted and 9% have resold items they don’t want instead of returning to the retailer.

Alex Marsh, head of Klarna UK, said: “Nobody wants to be out of pocket as a result of items they don’t even choose to keep, so it’s no surprise that slow refund processes are the top frustration factor when it comes to returns. As reliance on returns grows, retailers need to ensure they’re offering a smooth, seamless process that meets the needs of today’s customers – considering everything from effortless logistics to flexible payment options. As our research suggests, those that fail to adapt will lose customers in the long term.”

The research also uncovers a consistent trend of rising consumer expectations when it comes to returns services. Compared to 2019, a greater number of online shoppers now believe that returns are a normal part of online shopping today (80%, up from 77%) and expect that every retailer they shop with offers free returns as a minimum standard of service (81%, up from 75%). And, as customers increasingly demand free and easy returns, more consumers also now state they’d never shop with a retailer that didn’t offer free returns (57%, up from 53%), and that all their preferred retailers offer free and easy returns (73% up from 70%).

Natalie Berg, retail analyst and founder of NBK Retail, said: “Consumers often expect a returns policy to mirror that of delivery – fast, frictionless and free – but that’s not always the case. The pandemic has thrust the issue of returns into the spotlight, exacerbating the disconnect between the effortlessness of placing an online order and the inconsistent and often friction-filled experience of making a return. Returns are fantastically out of sync with an otherwise seamless e-commerce experience.”

 

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