Convenient methods to return an online purchase

July 2019


According to a recent Whistl study, that surveyed 1000 people, UK consumers overwhelmingly prefer the Post Office to return their online purchases with 44% of people using the high street branches. Respondents said the Post Office was a popular choice because of its ease of access.

Having items collected from work or home was ideal for 25% of the respondents. Taking an item back to a physical store was the preferred choice of just under a fifth of UK Consumers (18%) and the least popular returns process was Parcel Drop to a Collect+/ myHermes partner (14%).

The appeal of Parcel Drop is driven by its ease of use and better opening times than the Post Office. When asked why consumers prefer the Post Office many agreed it was because of the ease of access, and collection from home or work was driven by the avoidance of travel.

The type of product also determined how customers decided to return their items. Collect from home was popular for electronic equipment, appliances and furniture; store return for toys and clothes and Parcel Drop for electronic accessories, garden and pet products.

Not only were the participants asked what returns method they preferred, they were questioned on their willingness to pay for returns. The price paid for the item does not appear to have an impact on the amount people are willing to pay for its return. However, the more they paid for the initial delivery, the higher the price customers are expecting to pay for the return. If customers get the item delivered for free most of them expect to be able to return it for free and the expectation of free delivery increases with age.

Looking at the time taken to return an item, most were returned within a week, but 57% of respondents had kept an unwanted item as it was too much trouble to return, with females (61%) more likely to keep items than men (54%).

The survey also discovered that 25% of respondents bought more to avoid delivery charges and 11% admitted to using items and then returning them. 17% of those surveyed have used a “try before you buy” service, allowing customers to order items to try or test at home, returning what they don’t want and only pay for the items they keep.

Melanie Darvall, Director of Marketing and Communications, Whistl, commented: “With 11,500 branches across the UK it is understandable that the Post Office remains the most popular option for consumers returning unwanted goods, but consumers are becoming increasingly demanding and want more flexibility on the time of day when they can return items. We can see that Parcel Drop with partners such as Collect+/ myHermes will continue to increase over time due to their longer opening hours and convenient locations.

“An encouraging finding for online retailers is that consumers do not always want something for nothing and are willing to pay to return an item if it makes their life easier. Retailers should consider working with a partner who can develop a comprehensive returns policy that reflects the consumers’ attitude to payment for returns which may help maximise potential profit.”

For more information about Whistl returns click here.

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