Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

A poor returns policy could cost retailers over £19Bn in 2022

By Al Gerrie, CEO at ZigZag Global

ZigZag Global today announced new insights that show retailers in the UK could be missing out on £19 billion worth of business if their returns policy is not up to scratch. 

Online fashion (apparel, footwear and accessories) is still the most valuable sector of the UK retail industry, forecast by Forrester to be worth over £28bn in 2022. ZigZag found that returns policies have a significant impact on the buying habits of UK shoppers, with 68% stating that a retailer’s returns policy is important when it comes to whether or not they will make a purchase. 

Returns – Free, Quick & Easy

Over three quarters (76%) of UK shoppers now check the returns policy before making a purchase. Furthermore, almost 8 in 10 (78%) say retailers should make it easy for you to return goods – rising to 85% amongst 18-25-year-olds. Easy returns can also be the key to customer loyalty, with 82% agreeing that an easy returns experience would encourage them to shop with a retailer again. 

A poor return can be just as damaging, with 62% of UK shoppers claiming they would not shop again with a retailer after a poor returns experience.

According to UK shoppers, a good returns policy should:

  • Be free of charge (75%)
  • Provide a fast refund (63%)
  • Provide multiple options for returns (45%)
  • Be paperless and trackable throughout (43%)

Currently, a quarter (26%) of UK shoppers say they find the returns experience frustrating at most retailers and 36% agree that it’s definitely an inconvenience. 

“Returns have been a contentious issue for retailers for many years. It is not enough to simply offer free returns. It is just as important that the hurdles of retail returns be removed, as an easy and efficient returns process could make all the difference when making a sale.”  says Al Gerrie, Founder and CEO of ZigZag Global.

The Rise of the Regular Returner

According to GlobalData, by 2023 retail returns will have increased by 27.3% in five years, hitting a total of £5.6bn. This is largely due to increased prevalence of returns across clothing and footwear and the rise of the ‘regular returner’. 

ZigZag found that almost half of UK shoppers (47%) now consider themselves a ‘regular returner’ – rising significantly to 67% amongst 18-25 year olds. Interestingly, almost one in five shoppers (18%) does consider the cost of high returns to retailers, but it doesn’t impact how much they return. A third of respondents (33%) said they don’t factor the cost in at all. 

Retailers also find themselves in a frustrating catch-22. As 38% of UK shoppers said they would return less if a retailer charged for returns. Yet, as ZigZag has found, charging for returns will also discourage them from the initial purchase. 

Gerrie added: Though the frequency and value of returns is on the rise, this doesn’t have to cost the retailer a sale. Retailers now have a wealth of options to recoup the loss of one sale and encourage customer loyalty and repeat purchase. Whether that be by offering refunds to the retailer’s digital gift card, live exchanges, or recommerce opportunities, retailers can turn small losses into large gains in the long run”.