Charging customers for returns could have a detrimental impact on sales and customer loyalty, says Brightpearl

Following the news that Zara has started charging for returns made by post or collection pointMark Hook, VP brand & PR at Brightpearl, says: “Returns cost approximately £60bn in the UK yearly, £20bn of which is generated by items bought over the internet, so it’s no surprise that 70% of firms are worried about the growing impact of returns on their bottom line, according to a Brightpearl study.

“In today’s consumer-led retail environment, the cost of returns could spell problems for retail business owners if they do not have visibility over regularly returning customers. Without this, retailers will struggle with the definition and consistent application of their returns strategies – and could face a resulting backlash from otherwise loyal customers, especially if they feel they are being unduly hit by new ‘unfair charges’. That’s because a third of shoppers say they’ll abandon an online purchase if no free returns were offered. To an extent, the genie is out the bottle, and charging customers for returns may be seen as a form of punishment, that could have a detrimental impact on sales and customer loyalty

“Consumers are looking for fairness and choice when returning merchandise. Having the right software in place that offers a single view of returns data is essential to quickly identifying your cohort of problem shoppers, so you can make more informed decisions on how to combat them – while at the same time maintaining your relationships with loyal customers. Your returns strategy doesn’t have to be an ‘all or nothing’ approach. 

“In addition, retailers aren’t helping themselves in this area. A staggering 69% of retailers are not deploying technology solutions to automate and process returns. This striking statistic highlights how retailers themselves are exacerbating the cost and complexity of managing returns. The answer to the returns issue is in technology solutions, not passing the cost onto consumers.”