Avoiding returns a top priority in DACH

Avoiding returns a top priority in DACH

Preventing returns is a significant focus for online retailers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. On average, a return costs them between 5 and 10 euros, with some exceeding this range. Detailed product information is seen by entrepreneurs as the key solution.

The German retail institute EHI has conducted research on shipping and return management in 2023 and has already presented the initial results. From the survey of 81 online retailers in the DACH region, the institute concludes that returns have the highest priority for most of them.

Return percentages

“The efforts of entrepreneurs to avoid returns stem from the sometimes very high return volumes and the associated costs”, explains project leader Hilka Bergmann. “The average return percentage is quite moderate, but for individual product assortments, it is very high.”

The number of online returns is lowest in the food and beverage category. However, providers of fashion and accessories typically see a quarter to half of orders being returned, with peaks reaching 75 percent. Online shoppers often order multiple items in different sizes, making a final purchase decision at home and returning the rest. According to EHI, many fashion players tolerate and facilitate this:

‘This selection process is part of the business model’

Return costs

In addition to return percentages, return costs also vary significantly, according to the EHI study. On average, these range between 5 and 10 euros. In the home and interior category, return costs can double that amount. Of the online retailers surveyed, 64 percent cover the costs of return shipping, a choice that major fashion players like H&M and Inditex (Zara) are increasingly reversing in more countries.

For most respondents (56 percent), it is ultimately the inspection and quality control of the returned items that incur the most costs.


Seven out of ten surveyed parties record the reason for returns to be able to take appropriate measures.

70% of online retailers track why shoppers return items

The vast majority of respondents (86 percent) see detailed product information in their online shop as a crucial measure to reduce the return percentage. Accurate images and descriptions of items help customers make more informed purchase decisions. Other important measures from the retailers’ perspective include secure packaging, contact options for personal advice, and address verification.

The complete EHI study on shipping and return management in the DACH region will be published next week.



Arjan van Oosterhout has been contributing to Ecommerce News Europe since the spring of 2023. He writes news articles for the website on a freelance basis.

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