Many commentators were already referring to the state of retail returns as a ‘crisis’ before Covid-19 brought about an unprecedented shift to online channels. What now for returns?

It’s a well-established fact that the coronavirus crisis has resulted in a significant shift towards online shopping channels as brick-and-mortar stores close and consumers find themselves carrying out almost all of their shopping from home.

Indeed, recently-released data from Nielsen found that online retail sales in the UK increased by 103% in the four weeks leading up to the 16th May.

While on the surface this is good news for ecommerce and retail digital transformation as a whole, the suddenness of this shift has left many brands scrambling to adapt their digital strategies to cope with a surge in ecommerce demand.

One area in which many retailers have been forced to think on their feet is with returns – a growing pain point even before the coronavirus crisis hit. Returns policies are known to be a significant factor in consumers’ decisions to buy from a brand, with many factoring in the potential cost and difficulty of returns when deciding where to spend their money online. Retailers with free returns policies have historically reaped the benefits in terms of customer acquisition – but have also suffered from the high costs involved, as well as with customers who are serial returners, returning more items than they typically keep.

How has the recent upswing in ecommerce affected this situation, and how are retailers adapting their returns strategy as a result? I spoke to Al Gerrie, co-founder of returns management platform Zigzag Global, veteran ecommerce professional David Williams, and Larisa Summers, SVP Marketing at returns platform Optoro about the trends they have observed, the importance of a good returns experience, and how they think retail and returns will be transformed in the long term.

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