Returns to increase because of social media shopping

Growing social media commerce will cause one-in-five online shoppers to return more items, according to new research from international logistics company Advanced Supply Chain Group. 

Research of 2,000 online shoppers shows 34% will make more impulse buys as social media sites make it easier to buy products direct through in-platform selling tools. 63% of these impulse shoppers will end-up sending more of their purchases back to retailers, accounting for a fifth of all online shoppers making more returns.  

Advanced Supply Chain Group commissioned the research following a growing trend in social media commerce.  A recent eMarketer report showed social media referrals to ecommerce sites more than doubled in the past two years, while at the end of September Instagram announced testing for its ‘Buy on Instagram’ feature. This will see buying reminder notifications sent to users and follows beta testing earlier this year of the platform’s integrated sales tool; Instagram Checkout.  

Ben Balfour, Commercial Director at Advanced Supply Chain Group, comments: “Social media commerce is one of the biggest trends affecting ecommerce and is fast evolving. Platforms are changing from simply advertising products to offering a direct buying experience. This is supercharged window shopping – consumers can act quickly and easily on impulse. While this will see more purchases returned, it’s something retailers need to embrace.   

“Omnichannel retailing has been evolving towards this seamless shopping experience and, for the consumer, returning items is becoming a typical part of their purchasing. It’s something they expect to do and is very much part of the future of ecommerce.”

With the prospect of social media leading to more returns, Advanced Supply Chain Group also surveyed online shoppers about what irritates them most when sending an item back. 22% found paying for a return to be the biggest frustration, closely followed by waiting for a refund (20%) and repackaging the item (17%).

17% of consumers also find it frustrating that they have to take a return to a post office, store or collection point, while 9% of online shoppers don’t like having to complete returns paperwork and 7% get annoyed about not knowing the status of their return. 

Ben Balfour concludes: “It’s no real surprise that paying for returns ranks as the highest frustration. Consumers are increasingly value conscious and price sensitive – they want to spend their money on goods rather than deliveries and collections. This presents retailers with a real challenge as they aim to minimise margin dilution and is a key reason company owners and boardrooms are taking a more strategic approach to supply chain management. 

“Retailers are increasingly moving towards supply chain models influenced by consumer trends, rather than making pure cost-only decisions, to address frustrations such as those highlighted in the research. This is having a more positive impact on turnover and profitability as it drives sales and brand loyalty.”

About the research

The survey was undertaken by specialist consumer research agency OnePoll. The sample size included 2,000 online shoppers in the UK, with research completed via online questionnaire in October 2019. 

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