Categories: Retail




Navigating Rising Customer Returns: Insights for Retailers

In the increasingly competitive retail sector, the challenges of rising inflation and living costs are undeniable. For retailers, understanding consumer behaviour amidst these challenges is crucial for sustaining profitability and enhancing customer satisfaction. In this blog post, we’ll explore key insights from recent research into how the cost of living crisis is impacting the retail sector, shedding light on the complex dynamics of rising returns and offering actionable recommendations for navigating this evolving situation.

Understanding Consumer Priorities

No-cost returns and speedy refunds have emerged as paramount concerns for modern consumers. According to research by Advanced Supply Chain Group (ASCG), consumers continue to prioritise convenience and efficiency in returns policies. This underscores the importance of aligning retail strategies with evolving consumer expectations to maintain a competitive advantage in the market.

Top 3 Customer Returns Priorities:

  1. Cost – 62% want free returns.
  2. Speed – 58% want quick returns and a fast refund.
  3. Convenience – 56% want an easy process for returns.

With over a third of shoppers checking a retailer’s returns policy before purchasing and over half looking for the same information from a retailer they haven’t used before, it’s fair to say that a significant portion of consumers prioritise speedy and convenient returns. When retailers get the returns process right, this can go a long way towards encouraging return business and a lasting impression with customers.

Customer Returns

Impact of the Cost of Living Crisis

The cost of living crisis has had a profound impact on consumer behaviour, leading to increased returns as shoppers reassess their spending habits. ASCG research reveals that financial pressures are driving trends:

Shopping Guilt

In light of the cost of living crisis, 60% of consumers are reported to have used ‘retail therapy’ to improve their mood. However, that has been the catalyst for increased returns due to ‘shopping guilt’ when customers realise that they can’t afford their purchase. Just 47% of shoppers who purchased items in this way actually kept their items after the ‘retail therapy’ buzz wore off.

False Returns

False returns and return fraud account for a significant portion of overall returns, with 63% of retailers seeing a rise in ‘disingenuous returns’. The Ravelin Consumer Fraud Survey 2023 suggests that in the UK, 65% of fraudulent returns are as a result of the cost of living crisis.

Trading Down

Despite the cheaper price tag, when customers opt for cheaper brands and alternatives, this can cause increased customer returns due to dissatisfaction with the lower priced alternatives. With 57% of consumers switching to cheaper options, 43% admit to returning these purchases.

Shopping guilt, false returns and trading down all present a significant challenge for retailers seeking to manage returns effectively while maintaining profitability. By leveraging data-driven insights and supply chain transparency, retailers can identify patterns of returns and implement strategies to mitigate their impact.

Exploring Solutions

Finding the ideal solution is a balancing act that needs to consider giving your loyal customers the returns policy they want and protecting the business from disingenuous returns. While the prospect of charging for returns may seem tempting, it risks deterring sales and alienating customers. ASCG suggests alternative approaches, such as changes to payment options and backend solutions, to reduce the financial impact of returns without sacrificing customer satisfaction. By making returns channel-specific, integrating them into supply chain strategies, and promoting sustainability in returns, retailers can effectively navigate the complexities of rising returns.

Customer Returns

Recommendations for Retailers

Based on ASCG’s insights, retailers are advised to take a proactive approach to managing returns. By utilising data analytics to understand return patterns and improve efficiency, retailers can optimise returns processes and enhance customer satisfaction. Additionally, promoting sustainability in returns not only aligns with consumer values but also reduces environmental impact, further enhancing brand reputation and customer loyalty.

How Can OpSuite Help with Customer Returns?

  • Real-Time Inventory Management: OpSuite EPoS offers real-time insights into inventory levels across multiple locations. By accurately tracking stock levels and sales data, retailers can optimise their inventory management.
  • Order Accuracy: OpSuite streamlines the checkout process, minimising errors in order processing. With features like barcode scanning and automatic inventory updates, OpSuite ensures accurate orders, reducing the incidence of returns due to incorrect or incomplete orders.
  • Swift Returns Processes: OpSuite allows retailers to efficiently process returns and refunds, enhancing customer service and satisfaction.
  • Data Analytics: OpSuite provides valuable data on customer purchasing behaviour, product performance, and return patterns. By using these insights, retailers can identify trends, understand customer preferences, and optimise their inventory and returns management strategies accordingly.
  • Customer Engagement: OpSuite enables retailers to capture and analyse customer data, facilitating personalised marketing and communication efforts. By engaging with customers effectively, retailers can reduce the likelihood of returns by offering tailored product recommendations and promotions.
  • Supply Chain Optimisation: OpSuite EPoS supports supply chain optimisation by providing insights into sales and inventory data. Retailers can use this data to forecast demand, optimise inventory levels, and improve supplier relationships, ultimately reducing returns resulting from poor supply chain management.

OpSuite serves as a powerful tool for retailers looking to enhance their supply chain management and returns processes. With its robust features and integrations, OpSuite empowers retailers to improve operational efficiency, reduce returns, and enhance customer satisfaction.


Navigating rising returns requires retailers to adapt and innovate in response to evolving consumer preferences and market dynamics. By leveraging insights from EPoS data and adopting a proactive approach to returns management, retailers can position themselves for success in an increasingly competitive retail sector. With strategic investments in technology, data analytics, and customer engagement, retailers can turn the challenge of rising returns into an opportunity for growth and differentiation.

Why Choose RMS?

RMS have worked with ambitious businesses since 2004, supplying tailored software solutions and EPoS hardware from the Shetland Islands to the Seychelles. We work with businesses in most retail verticals, contact us and discover how we can help you navigate the challenges of customer returns, building resilience and allowing your business to thrive.

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