The delivery and returns headaches facing retailers and shoppers

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As we head into peak shopping season, retail experts predict Christmas Shopping growth to dip from last year. As such, Global Blue retail brands; ZigZag Global, the provider of technology-driven retail returns solutions and Shipup, the post-purchase experts have teamed up to launch a new research* report revealing the current challenges facing retailers and shoppers today.

Online shopping is still a priority for many, with almost two-thirds of shoppers making an online purchase at least once per week (61%). However, deliveries and returns are becoming a significant thorn in the side of shoppers with 93% of shoppers experiencing delivery delays (35% regularly). Furthermore, almost half of shoppers found that it’s up to them to flag delivery delays to the retailer (43%).

When it comes to returns, this is also having a significant impact on shoppers, with more than half (53%) claiming they will not buy from a retailer if they don’t like their returns policy. Considering 84% of shoppers always check the returns policy, this could have a significant impact on the number of sales if retailers aren’t getting their returns policy right. 

Deter Delivery Dramas

Interestingly, the research found that when it comes to delivery, speed is not the be all and end all. In fact, an accurate delivery estimate is important to more shoppers (57%) than a quick delivery (43%). 

Furthermore, communication is key. Currently, only a quarter of shoppers (25%) are receiving branded communications from retailers on deliveries. A more worrying figure is that 23% of shoppers hear from the carrier about delivery but nothing from the retailers themselves. 

Even though delivery can be the first experience of a brand, it can also be the most damning as 38% of shoppers said they wouldn’t shop with a retailer again after a poor delivery experience. A further 37% were unsure. That’s not to say it’s all over at this stage, shoppers can be persuaded after a poor delivery with an apology and discount (54%) or proactive customer service (43%). 

That said, it’s the tracking that appears to be key with 80% stating that proactive tracking alerts are important to them. Almost half of shoppers always track their deliveries (43%) and this is the ideal time for retailers to engage with their shoppers. However, 35% of shoppers find the tracking updates unhelpful or confusing. 

Agop Ashjian, CEO of Shipup, commented: “It is imperative that retailers improve their post-purchase offering, particularly around deliveries and communications. Our research indicates that retailers are lagging behind in this regard with a serious lack of proactivity and basic understanding of the customer’s needs. It’s clear customers want to be notified at each step of the way. 

In addition to that, post-purchase communications have some of the highest click rates in retail marketing, yet it is continually overlooked by retailers. Done right, post-purchase communications have the ability to increase customer satisfaction and drive loyalty, not just at the delivery stage but through the customer journey. You now have a direct channel to an engaged customer - it’s an opportunity that retailers cannot miss out on in this challenging marketplace”. 

The Returns Race

Returns policies have a significant impact on the buying habits of UK shoppers, the research finding that the majority (84%) checking the returns policy during their decision-making. This number has increased from 76% the previous year. Of that number, 53% have decided not to buy an item in the past because they didn’t like the returns policy. 

According to UK shoppers, a good returns policy should:

  • Be free of charge (82%)
  • Provide a fast refund (72%)
  • Provide multiple options for returns (46%)
  • Provide printerless returns (42%)

Currently, one third (35%) of shoppers say they are more likely to make a return due to the cost-of-living crisis, which is putting a strain on shopper’s purse strings. Whilst there is a significant rise in retailers charging for returns, to try and offset the cost, many shoppers still prefer returns to be free (82%). Having said that, the research did also find that 61% of shoppers would still buy from a retailer if they charged for returns.

The research also highlighted shopper’s preferences for returning an item bought online;  Return to post office (58%), collect from home (48%) and return to convenience store (40%) remain the three most popular methods. However, more shoppers are looking at return to store (39%) and locker return (24%) options as choice and flexibility is key to shoppers.

Al Gerrie, CEO of ZigZag Global, added: “Returns continue to be a contentious issue for retailers and shoppers alike, and is further exacerbated with the current cost-of-living crisis. The situation is forcing consumers to make more considered purchases and that inevitably results in higher returns rates. In order to keep shoppers happy, particularly as paid returns become more prevalent, retailers need to provide more choice and convenience to the customer.

Retailers are also looking at other ways to ‘save the sale’ with returns. We are already seeing more retailers offering exchanges where possible and also incentivising return refunds to gift cards or for store credit - which is a win-win for both shoppers and retailers. The next 12 months is definitely going to be an interesting period as retailers look to juggle customer satisfaction and loyalty with increasing returns costs”.  

*About the Research

The research was carried out by Dynata on behalf of ZigZag and Shipup and covered 2,001 respondents in the UK. Research was also conducted across France, US and Germany but the above statistics all relate to the UK.

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