When 1 in 3 of all items bought online are returned, you want to make sure the retailer you’re buying from can be trusted. In fact, returns have become a huge challenge for eCommerce businesses, with Financial Times reporting that unwanted parcels cost retailers in the United Kingdom approximately £60 billion a year
A major reason for that huge number will be that 19% of consumers deliberately order multiple variations of a single item (such as different colours and sizes) to choose their favourite and return the rest. When 20% of retailers say that they’d increased the cost of their products to cover the cost of returns, we thought the current state of returns needed investigating
We created our own metric for judging the return policies and processes of some of the UK’s largest retailers, considering everything that the public considers important when returning parcels.
Does your favourite retailer rank high? Have you been tearing your hair out dealing with the one ranking lowest? Let’s take a closer look at the data we generated:
A detailed breakdown of each retailer:
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the retailers and see what they do well, what they could do better and what the public think of them.
Missguided (Rank = 1)
- Number of monthly searches about their returns: 17,000
- Word count of returns page: 454
Officially the best retailer in the United Kingdom for returns, they tick a lot of the boxes you want when returning items. 28-day return window? Check. Free to return? Check. A Twitter help account that’s quick to reply? Check again. They are also one of the rare examples of the retailers included here that have a human on their live chat, which can help when you’re struggling to return an item.
New Look (Rank = 2)
- Number of monthly searches about their returns: 34,000
- Word count of returns page: 2,073
New Look must be doing something right, because not only are they ranked second for returns, but they’re also the highest-rated retailer here on TrustPilot. This shows how much customers care about returns, and their fantastic approach to them will be a large reason why they have such a positive reputation online. We just wish they’d sort out the FAQ approach they took with their returns page structure!
boohoo (Rank = 3)
- Number of monthly searches about their returns: 56,000
- Word count of returns page: 1,130
At 56,000 searches, boohoo has the most monthly searches in the UK about their returns - take from that what you will. However, coming in at third place means that there’ll be a lot of happy customers with a thorough and clear return policy. They would have got additional points for a human on their live chat, but their active Twitter help account is a good substitute.
Nasty Gal (Rank = 4)
- Number of monthly searches about their returns: 9,100
- Word count of returns page: 1,396
As likely the newest brand featured here, Nasty Gal has done well to beat established brands like H&M and Zara with their returns procedures. They keep it nice and simple with one click to reach their returns page, which may not sound impressive but keep in mind that there’s one brand featured here that requires five clicks to get from their home page to their returns page. We won’t spoil the surprise yet.
H&M (Rank = 5)
- Number of monthly searches about their returns: 9,700
- Word count of returns page: 2,080
Just making it into the top half of the list, H&M’s position isn’t reflected by their TrustPilot score, burdened with the second-lowest rating of the brands featured here. In fact, of their 8,714 reviews, a staggering 69% of their ratings are the lowest possible. These don’t all reflect their return policies which is likely why they’re still in the top half for this specific metric, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
Dorothy Perkins (Rank = 6)
- Number of monthly searches about their returns: 7,100
- Word count of returns page: 1,100
As we get into the bottom half of these brands, we do start to see some serious room for improvement. With Dorothy Perkins, they have no live chat functionality and no phone number listed on their website. Yes, you read that right - they even say “Sorry, we don’t have a phone number” on their Contact Us page (which is hidden away).
Zara (Rank = 7)
- Number of monthly searches about their returns: 23,000
- Word count of returns page: 675
With a staggering five clicks to reach their returns page, their site structure leads a lot to be desired - and there’s a good chance this is part of the reason they have the lowest TrustPilot rating of this study, with an outrageously low 1.4 rating. Of their 8,072 ratings, only 9% of them are for a full five stars, whereas 81% of them are the lowest, one-star rating.
Debenhams (Rank = 8)
- Number of monthly searches about their returns: 18,000
- Word count of returns page: 1,226
Debenhams are guilty of the same criminal error that Dorothy Perkins are, with no live chat and no phone numbers included on the website. However, DP had the advantage of a Twitter help account which secured them two positions higher, since Debenhams doesn’t have one to their name.
ASOS (Rank = 9)
- Number of monthly searches about their returns: 48,000
- Word count of returns page: 324
The retailer ranking second lowest coincidentally has the second-highest number of searches about returns. That’s a lot of people being apparently disappointed by the ASOS services, with a live chat that was unavailable at the time of collecting data and no Twitter account dedicated to helping customers.
Next (Rank = 10)
- Number of monthly searches about their returns: 31,000
- Word count of returns page: 602
If you’ve used them before, you may have seen this coming from a mile off. A large reason for this is Next’s return window, where you have 14 days to decide you want a return and then 14 days after that to actually return them. Compared to somewhere like New Look or H&M, this will definitely feel restrictive. While another retailer featured here also had a similar approach, Next also stumbled with different fees for returning items, poor site structure and no dedicated help account on Twitter.
With a lowly 1.8 TrustPilot rating, of which 67% of their 5,696 reviews are one star, it seems that the public have known about their poor returns processes for a while - but now it’s official, Next have the worst returns policy of large retailers in the UK!
How small-to-medium sized businesses can improve their returns process
For smaller businesses, it’s important to keep the customers that you do have, happy. One surefire way to do that is to comfort them with a solid return policy that means they can trust you with their money. Here are some tips you can take from the above, along with our research into retailer reviews online, to make sure you do just that:
- Make your returns policy accessible
If your policy isn’t easy to find, people will think that you’re trying to hide it - even if you’re not doing it maliciously. We’d recommend having it one click away from your home page, which also means that you can minimise time spent responding to people contacting you asking you about it.
- Have a dedicated email address for issues
If you have one email address for all of your customer’s needs, it’s quickly going to get too busy and potentially important messages may get buried. That’s why you should have a different email address, or even a separate social media profile, that people can use if they have issues with their return or products. This means you can answer their questions quicker and potentially speed up that purchase process.
- Encourage reviews/testimonials...
When around 50% of consumers need at least a four-star rating online before they consider working with a business, it’s important that you encourage these reviews as much as possible - and have a business profile set up on somewhere like Google or Trustpilot. To generate those reviews, consider sending an email to customers that have recently purchased from you or adding a small slip into packages that send them to your review platform.
- ...but don’t ignore the negative ones
You’re always going to get negative feedback, so it’s best to focus on how to deal with it when it happens instead of how to prevent it from happening at all. One of the best ways to do that is to respond to each one individually, saying that you’re sorry to hear about their experience or offering them a solution. This shows that you’re listening to your audience and not just forgetting about the people that say a bad word about you.
Direct quote from Claire Leech, DPack Managing Director
When unwanted parcels cost retailers in the UK around £60 billion a year, it’s clear that something might need to change. Businesses have already admitted to increasing the cost of their items to balance out their revenue loss as a result of returns.
If you consider that 19% of online customers deliberately order multiple variations of the same item to pick their favourite and return the rest, we believe that we might start to see more businesses introduce return fees, like Next currently do.”
First, we needed to decide on which ten retailers we would examine. To do this, we looked at monthly search volume and picked the top ten fashion retailers with the most search volume for “[brand name] + returns”. Once we had this information, we collected some additional data for each specific retailer. We ran each website's main returns page through a word counter (not including header/footer or superfluous text), examined their site structure and used Twitter to look for accounts and tweets about them.
On top of this, we also went through the process that someone looking to return an item would go through, involving speaking to people on live chats, seeing the refund windows/fees and much more. We then gave each retailer an amount of points based on how good they were for each factor we were measuring by, with the minimum points awarded being 1 (the worst in that category) up to 4 (the best in that category). We then added the points from each category up, leading to the list that we shared above.
We also want to clarify that this is not meant to besmirch any of the retailers mentioned, instead simply highlighting areas where they could improve based on public feedback and data that was collected across September 2021 and March 2022.
UK retailers count the cost of returns - Financial Times
Ecommerce Returns: 2020 Stars and Trends - Sale Cycle
Ecommerce Return Rate Statistics - Nosto