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Free delivery doesn’t increase return volume

Online retailers who offer free delivery don’t seem to experience having more items returned to them. Although many consumers often don’t pay for delivery, when they do return purchases, most of the time it’s not due to free delivery.

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This can be concluded from a study by Whistl, that looked at the parcel return behavior of UK online shoppers. Six in ten respondents didn’t pay for delivery and despite clothing, shoes and consumer electronics purchases being returned at a higher return rate than all other product categories, this wasn’t due to free delivery, the delivery management company states.

  Items most likely to be returned Items least likely to be returned
1. Clothes / shoes Books
2. PC/ Phone/ Camera/ Electronics equipment Pet products
3. Home & kitchen appliances Video games

It depends on what kind of items are bought whether a consumer will look at the returns policy before the purchase takes place, after the items are ordered or none at all. For example, most consumers will take a look at the returns policy before they buy garden items or car accessories online. But when they buy disposable items (or items that could easily be given to someone else), like books or CDs, consumers are the least likely to look at a returns policy.

Before purchase After purchase When received When return Never
Garden & outdoors Kitchenware Gifts Gifts Pet
Car accessories Furniture Hobbies Children/baby Books
DIY Children/baby Electronic equip Pet CD/DVDs

What makes a good returns policy?

Whistl also asked respondents what they think is important in a good returns policy. The three most important elements are: free returns with prepaid postage, quick refunds and pre-printed return labels.

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