Weighing Up Your Options

It's that really famous clich√© that people tend to use when talking about general life decisions. I could do this, or I could do that, which one should I do? Someone will always tell us to "weigh up our options". The ultimate balancing act - taking two scenarios and working out which one is better by mentally weighing the benefits of one versus the other. 

But in the world of fashion e-commerce, this saying takes on a new level of literalness, because research shows that people prefer to shop with retailers who offer multiple returns options. Most online shoppers now habitually check a retailer's return policy before the buy online, and one of the most important aspects of that check is how many different ways there are to return things. So when someone is deciding whether to buy from one retailer or another, they should metaphorically weigh the options, literally. 

 Weighing up our returns options
22% of retailers only offer 1 return option
— ReBound

There's still a large portion of retailers who only offer 1 return option - just under 1 in 4 actually. Then there's another large portion who only offer 2 options. And even though 2 options is far better than one, the point still applies: Returning clothes as an online shopper can be really inconvenient. How many of us have kept clothing we've bought online just because returning it for a refund seemed too much of a hassle at the time? According to a survey we conducted with 100 random shoppers in London, a staggering 79% of them had kept clothing for that exact reason. 

The more options you give, the higher the chances that all your online shoppers will be satisfied. Most retailers who only offer one return option offer a drop-off at either the Post Office or a Collect+. The problem with the Post Office is that the queues can be so long that it takes up your entire lunch break just to hand over a parcel, and even though Collect+ makes this easier, people do not always have one nearby. And it's not just about adding more options, it's about being clever about the type of options. If you're a retailer, and you currently have two options to return clothes, if they are both drop-offs, perhaps the next option you should add is a collection option. There are some people who will wait in all day for someone to come to their door - perhaps they work from home, or it's the weekend. 

Of course, cost is probably the important factor. I myself am not aware of why retailers who only offer one option do so, but it is hard to argue against costs. BUT, if they can, they should. There are so many options, and every extra one a retailer adds to their own site, the less risky buying clothes from them online becomes. 

Just look at Asos - they offer their online shoppers a whopping 8 free return options in the UK (InPost lockers, PassMyParcel, Asda toyou, Collect+, Doddle, Hermes drop-off, Hermes collection, and the Post Office). Chances are in your favour as a shopper that you will live really near one of these, so returning clothes is probably not that stressful. But Asos are exceptional when it comes to returns options, alongside a few other retailers who offer this many options. The general best-of-the-rest are retailers who offer 3 options (M&S, Boohoo.com, Missguided), and this is what those 22% of retailers only offering 1 option should be aiming for.

 MISSGUIDED's 3 return options

MISSGUIDED's 3 return options

Increasing the number of returns options might not seem like a massive deal. Perhaps you think offering amazing delivery services would be more beneficial for revenue. And perhaps so. But it is hard to argue with the logic, and also the facts. Retailers who offer more returns options tend to be the ones that shoppers rate as having the best returns experiences, and this is hugely important in their purchase decisions. According to Klarna, 83% of online shoppers would not shop with a retailer again if they'd had a bad returns experience. If having a couple more options to return clothing can help stop this from happening, it seems like a pretty big deal to me.

William Rowley