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12% of online purchases in Germany get returned

One in eight online purchases in Germany is sent back to the online retailer. Currently, 12 percent of products ordered online won’t stay with the customer. Two years ago, this share was still at 10 percent.

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This is the result of a survey commissioned by digital association Bitkom among over 1,000 online shoppers in Germany. The study shows that one in three online shoppers sends back at most every tenth purchase, while one in four sends back 10 to 25 percent of all online orders. And 14 percent even returns over 25 percent of the products they ordered online.

Return rate is high among clothing

According to Julia Miosga from Bitkom, the return rates are particularly high in product categories such as clothing and they rise from year to year. She says that for online retailers, it often requires a great deal of effort to prepare for the resale of returned items. “After all, returns do not only mean a loss of revenue, it also causes personnel and process costs, because online stores need to check the returned items and get them back to the warehouse.”

Young shoppers and women send lots of items back

It’s 14- to 29-year-old online shoppers who account for most returns: among this age group, 18 percent of all online orders get returned. Women are also well-known for their high return rate: 15 percent of their online orders will eventually come back at the retailer. For men, it’s only 9 percent.

Reducing the number of returns

In order to reduce the number of returns, many online shops in Germany would already rely on detailed product information and digital customer service solutions such as live chat. “The more information there is about a product, the better the customer can make his or her decision and the less surprises there are when opening the package”, Miosga says.

She gives the example of certain online retailers that do not only inform the customer about the pure clothing sizes, but also how well the clothes fit. And 360° images, close-ups and product videos should also give the buyer a better view of the desired product.

Some customers will keep returning products

Online retailers should however keep in mind that maybe not all returns can be prevented. The survey shows that 51 percent of online shoppers occasionally order products online with the intention of sending them back, because they just want to try different size of clothes. 28 percent does this rarely, 17 percent sometimes and 6 percent even regularly.

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