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26 January 2022, London – The end of free returns has arrived, a recent study by Sendcloud has found. Major retailers like H&M and Zara are now charging customers for returns, and as a result one in four consumers revealed that they are willing to pay for the return themselves.

As many as 80% of consumers say they regularly return a purchase. Another 72% of consumers say they almost always check the return conditions before ordering and two-thirds (65%) claim they will even abandon an order if clear return information is missing. 

The report is backed up by a recent YouGov report that claimed almost two-thirds (63%) of the UK end up keeping unwanted orders because of complicated returns policies.

Sustainability is a focus for consumers

Although returns are a dealbreaker for many online shoppers, consumers generally understand that free returns are not sustainable in the long run. The majority (57%) of those surveyed believe that returns are bad for the environment. 

While 74% of those surveyed last year said they would order more often if returns were free, this year that has already dropped to 72%. 

How much consumers are exactly willing to pay for returns, however, depends on the order value. While for an order of £15 consumers are willing to pay around £4 in return costs, for an order of £150 this rises to as much as £5.80.  

“Retailers often see the returns process as a real nightmare and have been struggling with the rising cost of returns for years. Since Zara’s announcement to charge return fees, the end of the free era seems near,” says Rob van den Heuvel, CEO and co-founder of Sendcloud

“Although paid returns take some getting used to for many consumers, our research shows that many online shoppers are quite willing to pay for it. The only condition is that the return policy is transparent and returns are easy. That is where many retailers still have some work to do, although that can be easily overcome with a returns portal like Sendcloud’s.” 

Simple returns process crucial 

A key condition for success, however, is to make returns as simple as possible. More than half (60%) of consumers believe returns are a hassle. Consumers prefer retailers to clearly communicate the return conditions beforehand. Consumers think that the policy should at least state the cost of returns (57%), whether they receive a ready-made return label (47%) and the refund period (34%). 

About The E-commerce Delivery Compass

The E-commerce Delivery Compass report was conducted by Nielsen among 9,004 participants from nine countries in August 2022 (the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States). A total of 1,000 British people participated in the survey. Sendcloud releases the E-commerce Delivery Compass annually to provide retailers with the latest trends in e-commerce logistics. The full survey can be downloaded here.

About Sendcloud

Sendcloud is an all-in-one shipping platform for e-commerce businesses that want to scale. It is our mission to empower online retailers to compete by optimizing the full shipping journey from checkout to returns. Our solution turns e-commerce logistics from a bottleneck into an accelerator, making shipping a competitive advantage.

Founded in the Netherlands in 2012, Sendcloud has quickly become one of the fastest growing scale-ups and leading shipping solutions in Europe, with more than 23,000 customers across the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Austria. Customers range from small to enterprise-sized online retailers and in industries from fashion and electronics to food & drink.

Daniëlle Elbertse

Daniëlle Elbertse works as a Marketing Specialist at Sendcloud. With her expertise in the field of IT and e-commerce logistics, she helps online retailers optimize their shipping strategy.