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Major online retailers in Germany are, in general, very generous when it comes to their return policy. Every second retailer extends its return period beyond the legal minimum. And 13 percent of ecommerce companies who specify a time period for remittances pay earlier than promised.
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Returns in ecommerce are still one of the biggest annoyances, both for consumers and online retailers. Companies need to process the return and pay the customer back, while the customer needs to repack the unwanted goods and bring them to the post office.
So, online retailers who want to score points with their customers, should offer a smooth returns experience. And it turns out that many major online retailers in Germany do, as the latest study from ParcelLab shows.
One in two retailers offer a return period that’s longer than what is legally required. This is most likely the result of many retailers just having followed suit after ecommerce giants like Amazon (30 days) and Zalando (100 days) set the tone with their return policies.
Furniture shippers grant the longest deadlines
It seems that furniture retailers are particularly generous in this area. Among the 17 furniture retailers from the test, almost three quarters let customers return items after three weeks. Number one is Ikea with a total of 365 days.
Fashion retailers also give customers time to think.
Fashion retailers also often give customers the opportunity to try the products for quite some time: 61 percent of fashion retailers in the top 100 list often offer their customers up to 30 days to think about whether they want to keep their purchase.
Fewer return labels added to the parcel
According to ParcelLab, there’s a clear trend in the processing of returns. Fewer and fewer retailers (36 now instead of 40 last year) are adding return labels to their parcels. Instead they give customers the option of downloading a return label online (49 now compared to 26 last year). “For customers, this means a small extra effort compared to just receiving the return label. However, this is compensated for by the retailer if customers are guided through the process in an understandable and transparent manner via a returns portal – and can simply choose between changing the item for a different size, complaint, or return, for example. And for online retailers, this procedure has the clear advantage that they can get an early overview of which goods will be coming back to them.”
49 out of 100 retailers give customers the option to download a return label.
Being able to download the return label means customers have to print out the label themselves. Which is, of course, not the best example of customer service. The study shows that only 12 of the 40 retailers with a return portal give their customers the choice of whether they want to print out the label themselves or to generate a corresponding barcode that can be scanned at the parcel shop.
Returns portals are still limited
ParcelLab thinks that returns portal are still quite limited in their functionalities. Among the 40 (of the 100 online retailers analyzed) that use a portal for processing returns, only half ask for the reason for return. “But this customer reaction is essential for optimizing return rates. Customers can only choose between changing an item and getting a refund at 27 retailers.”
This reaction is essential for optimizing return rates.
When it comes to letting consumers pay for their returns, 90 percent allow unwanted products to be returned free of charge. Especially in the online fashion industry and the sport and leisure segment this is the standard way: all 36 fashion retailers and all sports retailers offer free returns. “On the other hand, retailers in the beauty, cosmetics and food sectors are less accommodating. Here, almost every third retailer lets customers pay the costs for return shipments.”
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