Germany Bitkom: Every tenth online purchase is returned

February 20, 2023

Back in the box, return label on and off to the nearest post office – that’s what happens with every tenth online purchase. A quarter of online shoppers (26 percent), on the other hand, save themselves the trip and forego returns altogether. This is the result of a representative survey commissioned by the digital association Bitkom among 1,024 online shoppers aged 16 and over in Germany. According to the survey, women return a larger proportion of their online orders (12 percent on average) than men (8 percent). At 13 percent, 16 to 29 year-olds also return an above-average number of their online purchases. The over-60s group, on the other hand, sends the least amount of goods back to the sender, at 7 per cent.

“In terms of sustainability, we need to avoid returns as much as possible. Digital solutions such as virtual try-ons, data-based size advice and all-round views support product selection and can thus help to reduce the returns rate,” says Bitkom Chief Executive Dr Bernhard Rohleder. “This not only means higher customer satisfaction and lower costs on the part of retailers, but also less resource consumption in logistics.”

Doesn’t fit, small scratch or better offer – customers who return goods ordered online do so for a wide variety of reasons. The most frequent reason for returning online purchases is that they are not to their liking. 54 percent cite this as the reason for a previous return. 53 percent have already returned a product because it was faulty or damaged, 42 percent because it did not match the picture or description in the web shop and 38 percent because it looked poorly made.

Many also take returns into account from the outset: 37 percent have already deliberately ordered more than they actually need, for example clothes in different sizes. For 29 percent of those who return online purchases, an incorrect item was delivered, while 14 percent made a mistake when ordering. One in ten (10 percent) have already discovered a better offer and therefore returned goods ordered online.

Note on methodology: The data is based on a survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. In the process, 1,123 internet users, including 1,024 online shoppers, aged 16 and over in Germany were surveyed online. The survey is representative. The questions were: “What percentage of your online purchases do you return?” and “For which of the following reasons have you ever returned goods?

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