Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

All I want for Christmas is a free returns policy

Despite our newfound freedom to hit the high-street, a new ecommerce study, commissioned by ZigZag Global, looks into how UK consumers are planning to shop in the next six months and revealed that over half (55%) of shoppers are planning to do more of their Christmas shopping online this year compared to last year’s ‘lockdown Christmas’. 

Whilst the forecast for more online Christmas shopping is great news for ecommerce retailers, research suggests a level of caution, with consumers increasingly looking for guarantees from retailers for a free and fast returns policy before making a purchase; More than two thirds (77%) of shoppers said they are more likely to pick a retailer for their Christmas shopping this year if they provide a free returns policy. Free returns are even more important for the younger generation, with 85% of 18–25-year-olds saying a free returns policy would make them more likely to purchase from a retailer over the Christmas period. 

Whilst free returns are clearly the most important factor, speed is also key; 57% of shoppers also said that an instant or quick refund is important in a good returns policy, increasing to 60% of 25–36-year-olds who cited this as key.   

30% of shoppers also said a longer returns window is important, with men (31%) more likely to value a longer returns window than women (28%), and those aged 56-65 most likely to value it at 44%58% of shoppers also said they would like the option of having the value of their refund returned to a retailer’s digital gift card for them to spend in the future. Women (60%) are more likely to want this option than men (55%). 

Discussing the findings, Al Gerrie, CEO and founder of ZigZag Global, commented: With more online shopping predicted this Christmas time, it’s inevitable we will see increased returns and retailers need to be ready for that.  Customers expect free and quick online delivery and increasingly they expect free and hassle-free returns, which are all part and parcel of the customer shopping experience. Retailers need to meet customer expectations and ensure their marketing campaigns are highlighting their returns policies in a proactive and transparent way, updating their policies to embrace returns more readily, and effectively seeing returns as an important part of the sales journey in building customer confidence and maintaining customer loyalty.   

Customers feel they shouldn’t have to pay to return items they purchase online, and when it comes to speed; the faster the refund, the happier the customer is, and the sooner money is back in a customer’s bank account, the quicker they can order their next item”.   

The study also shows that a positive or negative returns experience could influence where customers are planning to shop this festive season; 40% of shoppers who had a good returns experience with a retailer last Christmas told said they had continued to be loyal customers, rising to 58% of 18–25-year-olds, who said they’ve continued to shop with a retailer after a good returns experience.  32% of consumers who had a good returns experience with a retailer last Christmas have shopped with them repeatedly in the past six months, and 35% of shoppers told us they are planning to buy from a retailer again this Christmas after a positive returns experience last season.  On the flip side, 28% of 26–35-year-olds said they never shopped with a retailer again after a negative returns experience last Christmas. 

Al Gerrie continues, It’s clear from our research that a positive or negative returns experience impacts on customer loyalty, confidence and a willingness to buy from a retailer.  Whilst we look forward to a prosperous Christmas 2021 for retailers, there remains a level of caution and I believe, as our research indicates, that a good returns experience will be key to keeping the sales journey moving, winning customers, building confidence and ultimately boosting the all-important Christmas sales this season.