In April 2019, online retailer ASOS adjusted its returns policy in an apparent bid to clamp down on ‘serial returners’. Closing accounts of those customers who it feels are either over-ordering, over-returning or wearing the clothes before returning them. The company’s decision to adjust the policy was driven by a desire to reduce ‘wasteful and unnecessary returns’, ‘maintain prices’ and ‘do their bit for the environment’, whilst stopping people taking advantage of the returns service.
Whistl wanted to know what the public thought about the changes proposed by ASOS and whether they would affect sentiment towards the retailer. 76% of respondents to the survey supported this policy. Overall only 8% of consumers disagree with the changes which increases to 16% when specifically related to ASOS shoppers.
With age comes the opinion that serial returners are abusing the returns system and pushing up costs for customers as a whole. 58% of respondents aged between 65-75 were more likely to agree with the new change. In comparison, only 27% of 18-24 year olds were likely to agree with the policy change that is set to deter ‘serial returners’.
The survey suggests those who are in favour of the returns policy feel shoppers who take advantage of the system are dishonest and are negatively impacting other shoppers, ruining free returns for others.
One surprising result from the survey is that those who admitted to using items with the intention of returning also claimed to be strongly in favour of the policy change. Overall 79% of those who admitted to using an item with the intention of returning it claimed they were also in favour of the policy change. Also, despite claiming to be strongly in favour of the policy change, a large proportion (40%) of those who admitted to using items with the intention of returning them also had nothing to say about the change.
During this policy reform ASOS also made the decision to extend their returns period from 28 to 49 days, offering gift vouchers as refunds for orders returned after 29 days. However, when asked if a reasonable returns period was important in a ‘good returns policy’, only 28% of those surveyed viewed it as a valuable feature.
Although the changes brought in by ASOS created a lot of debate at the time, the research indicates that the changes are widely welcomed, even by those who are considered to be serial returners. If changes are explained well and seen as reasonable, the general public will welcome them, no matter how controversial they may first appear.
Getting a returns policy right depends on many factors and more guidance is available here.
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