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European consumers seek flexible return policies – study
Thu, 14th Mar 2024

Research conducted by commerce protection provider, Signifyd, reported that European consumers are prioritising retailers offering flexible return policies and payment options, despite easing inflation. With global returns in 2023 costing retailers over $700 billion, it's predicted that by the end of the decade, returns could cost retailers almost $1 trillion. It is suggested that retailers must turn their focus onto efficiently managing the entire retail life cycle, from delivery to return.

The OnePoll research across Europe in February 2024 showed that 76% of European consumers view return policies as "fairly" or "very" important when selecting a retailer. This consideration was highest among shoppers from Italy and Spain, with 48% and 47% respectively, stating that it was "very important". At the same time, the ease of return was crucial for 94% of respondents, while 50% said they might be less inclined to shop at a retailer offering only store credit. Furthermore, 57% stated they'd be less likely to patronise retailers that charge for return costs.

The research also shed light on consumers' preferred return methods. Courier collection emerged as the preferred method for 35% of consumers, followed by dropping off returns at the Post Office (32%) and in-person returns at stores (26%). Retail return bars were the least popular, favoured by just 7% of respondents. British and Spanish consumers favour in-store returns the most, both at 34%.

The survey identified the most common reasons for returns being rejected included exceeding the return window (13%), damaged items (12%), and returning products that were excluded from the policy (9%). Alongside this, payment preferences revealed geographical differences, with over half of Italians (55%) and Spaniards (53%) preferring PayPal, while 55% of Britons lean towards using credit cards.

Signifyd says this research serves as a reminder to European retailers of the importance of a customer-centric experience that accounts for the full span of the retail life cycle, from purchase to possession. Retailers not only need to provide convenient and efficient return options, but they also need to combat the growing problem of fraudulent returns. This requires the implementation of robust fraud prevention strategies, in addition to taking consumer expectations into account.

Amal Ahmed, Director, Financial Services and EMEA Marketing at Signifyd, stated that their research “highlights the complexities retailers face in today's evolving consumer landscape.” Ahmed emphasised the importance of balancing a seamless retail experience with effective anti-fraud measures, saying, “While offering a seamless and customer-centric experience throughout the retail journey remains crucial, including efficient and flexible return options, it's equally important to implement robust fraud prevention strategies to address the growing challenge of fraudulent returns. By adapting to changing consumer expectations and prioritising both customer satisfaction and security, retailers can thrive in this dynamic environment."