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European Retail Consumer Behavior: Who Returns the Most and Why?

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When choosing a return solution for your business, it's crucially important to consider the habits and preferences of your customers. These insights will help to develop a return process that works both for you and your consumers. Understanding when, where, who, and how shoppers return will help with this, as these could be variable per country or city. Accordingly, we have compiled some over-arching data concerning fashion retail returns in Europe during the peak season period.

Who Returns the Most?

Our data showed that the five European countries that returned the most, in order volumes, were:

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  • Germany (36%)
  • Austria (30%)
  • the Netherlands (26%)
  • Sweden (23%)
  • United Kingdom (16%)
When analyzing the common return policies of fashion retailers operating in 
these countries, it is easy to assume that the promise of free returns plays a big role. Many of the biggest and most popular brands and retailers offer this as standard practice within Europe. In recent years, free delivery for online shopping has become a service that is expected by the modern consumer. Convenience is a vitally important aspect for retailers to consider when looking to secure returning customers and high satisfaction rates among shoppers. As returns are the last point of contact with customers during a sale, the same ease and convenience is now expected for returns. Additionally, these returns do not immediately point to a financial loss for brands. The ease of returns will, in turn, encourage shoppers to buy more by reducing the risks associated with returning a product. Read more about the pros and cons of free returns here.

Another point to note when looking at the countries that return the most retail products is the shopping habits of consumers in these areas. For example, perhaps shoppers in the top three countries who return (Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands) are more calculated with the items they purchase and keep – as opposed to shoppers in other regions in Europe. This line of thought allows us to infer why these countries return to retailers more than others.

When do Shoppers Return?

Our insights also indicated that the time of day in which customers returned items was spread evenly between the morning, afternoon, and early evening. Logically, the reason for this is that these are the times when drop-off locations are typically open – such as post offices and small local shops with postal capacities which usually operate during office hours. Generally, this is a similar story across Europe. Among the top five returning countries, the most popular time for returns was the morning, with the exception of Sweden. Once again, the logic behind this may be very simple; such that people may want to return items before heading to work or dropping off heavy or bulky items before going to another appointment. Understanding the reasons why consumers choose to return at certain points in the day helps to inform the make-up of the ideal return solution for a particular consumer base.

Where do Shoppers Return?

In Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom alike, the most popular areas for returns were the capital cities of each respective country. This makes sense due to the fact that cities are typically more densely populated than suburban areas. Additionally, there is likely a higher level of young people living in cities – who are often a key target audience for many big-name brands. Considering that younger age groups are buying more online and live or work primarily in major cities, this could explain the trend.  

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Getting Access to Return Data

Utilizing consumer return behavior data will help your business to identify the aspects that are necessary for a seamless and efficient return solution. The best way to ensure that you have this data is to use a return portal with advanced analytics. If you have the data, then you're able to tweak your return operation to fit the needs of your consumers. And a good return process will leave your customers satisfied and motivated to buy more in the future as well as save your company costs in the long run, retaining value and securing customer loyalty. 

As a returns management company, Cycleon provides both returns portals with advanced consumer return data and logistics solutions. Click here to read our client case study about how we helped Columbia revolutionize and improve their returns.

Want to learn more about how Cycleon can improve your returns process?

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