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The flood of parcels is a burden for online retailers: Consumers are sending back more and more

Status: 10/28/2021 1:04 p.m.

The number of returns continues to rise – every seventh online order is now being returned. Can increased use of technology help curb the volume of parcels?

In Germany, every seventh order on the Internet is now returned. The extent of the returns is still a major challenge for many retailers, summarized the digital association Bitkom the result of a representative survey published today.

The association surveyed more than 500 retail companies in Germany, including 203 retailers who sell partly or exclusively on the Internet. Around half of the online retailers surveyed reported rising costs due to returns. At almost every second online retailer, the returns are now so high that they are a burden on the business.

More CO2 and packaging waste

The online business has become an important pillar for many retailers, especially in times of the Corona, said Bitkom CEO Bernhard Rohleder. “For online retailers, returns mean a loss of sales on the one hand and additional personnel and process costs on the other.” For the environment, returns lead to more CO2 emissions due to additional delivery routes and more packaging waste.

But the industry hopes that the number of returns can be noticeably reduced in the future with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), especially big data applications and virtual reality offers. For example, clothes can be tried on virtually, furniture can be projected into the living room, explained Rohleder. In addition, retailers could use AI to precisely analyze the causes of returns. Two thirds of the online retailers surveyed were convinced in the Bitkom survey that digital technologies could help here.

Market leader Amazon recently relaxed the conditions for returns. “Free returns are available for selected shipping addresses,” says some of the customers as soon as they call up products on the Amazon website: “You can return the item free of charge for any reason, provided it is in a new and unused condition. ” The limit of 40 euros for free returns, which was previously also applicable at Amazon for many products, has thus been softened.

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