With the rise of e-commerce, returns have become an integral part of the digital customer experience. Customers expect disposable digital, want access to the New and are time poor.

This has led to significant disruption in how consumers shop and a growing demand for fast, free and frictionless returns. Savvy e-tailers are adjusting processes and policies to take advantage of these new models which is driving surprising growth.

Given the market growth at stake, it is easy to see why e-tailers have evolved from considering returns a necessary evil to a key way of providing exceptional outcomes for their customers. These new approaches focus on driving competitive advantage with returns as a lever to improve conversion, basket size, retention and Net Promoter Scores.

Post and parcel organisations that position themselves as the returns partner of choice for retailers, delivering seamless interaction between them and their customers, also stand to achieve significant gains.


of consumers review a returns policy before buying.


of consumers consider the returns policy to be important when making an online purchase.

Emerging return-centric models

  1. Disposable Digital: The pace of digital advancement is changing our perception of longevity and even ownership. For example, there are now retailers that offer customers the opportunity to order items of clothing, wear the one they like the best, and return them all with a refund for any item not worn.
  2. Access to the New:The in-hand, immediate, always on access to information and commerce has created a “what I want, when I want” culture. To enable the new, some retailers now offer ‘home try-on’ programs where consumers are able to try multiple products at home and return the ones they don’t want to keep.
  3. Time Poor: Convenience and frictionless commerce drive conversion in a time strapped customer base. Taking advantage of this trend, a number of retailers now send customers a box of products for a monthly subscription fee, with the option to return the whole thing or pay for what they keep.

Adapting to the unique and individual needs of an ever more diverse customer base – and, critically, doing so at speed and scale–requires an agile, adaptable organisation with a seamlessly integrated ecosystem.

Online shopper feedback: Returns

Online shopper feedback: Shipping options

Three key trends for post and parcel organisations to remain competitive

  1. Invest in intelligent solutions. Analytics and artificial intelligence can enable organisations to offer more than just a return. Increasingly, e-tailers are looking for smart solutions that help them manage inventory while lowering the cost of returns.
  2. Become the first-mile provider of choice. Postal organisations have distinct competitive advantage in first mile because they are the only organisation that will pass by every home in a country on a daily basis. Build out the delivery network to accommodate parcel deliveries and pickups and offer a returns first mile product.
  3. Focus on the customer experience. According to UPS, that experience must include free shipping, a hassle-free returns policy, easy-to-print return labels, timely refunds, and return label in the box[1]. Customers want easy, free returns and quick refunds.

Forming new ecosystem relationships with retailers that embrace returns as a necessary part of their business model will help post and parcel organisations embed themselves in the evolving delivery ecosystem, as innovative startups enter and disrupt the industry.

Andre Pharand

Lead – Global Management Consulting, Post and Parcel


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