Discover the Five Personas of eCommerce Returners in time for peak season

As consumers discovered more ways to shop online over the last 18 months, eCommerce exploded by around 50%taking return volumes to an all-time high. Returns have naturally become an integral part of the eCommerce experience, leading to 79% of consumers checking the returns policy before making a purchase and 46% ditching their basket if they are not impressed with what they see (ZigZag Global Retail Returns Study 2021). Return process are redefining relationships between customers and retailers like never before. 

So, we decided to conduct the most extensive study in consumer attitudes to returns. From their role in the buying decision to return methods; we wanted to get under the skin of consumer frustrations and preferences and whether they really do care about going green.

​​As a result of this research of over 1,000 UK online shoppers, we created The Five Personas of eCommerce Returners. Each persona has been crafted by specific demographic details and their shared preferences and expectations of the returns process. Most of our study respondents fit into one of these five personas.

eCommerce Returner #1: The Fast Fashionista Strikes Again


eCommerce Returner #1: The Fast Fashionista Strikes Again

Our first eCommerce Returns persona will for many of you also represent a large proportion of your sales and will typically be a VIP customer. They make a lot of online purchases and naturally will also be responsible for many of your returns too. ​

They have a taste for fast fashion. They are ever so slightly more likely to be female, with womenswear retailers the largest adopters of the fast fashion business model and often having the highest return rates. Reaching as high as 70% for some German womenswear retailers! Of course, plenty of men will fit this category, but from all our eCommerce returns personas, the fast fashionista was the one most impacted by gender. ​

They are mainly between the ages of 18 and 25 and they expect to be refunded quickly, with 11% expecting an instant refund and around half wanting their money back within just 3 days. They’ve grown up in the era of internet banking and do everything online, so they expect a fast refund so they can ultimately head back to your store and continue shopping.


Our Advice for The Fast Fashionista Strikes Again

  • Don’t penalise the many for the sake of the few – High returners are often still your most valuable customers. To target fraudulent returners, simply monitor behaviour and act accordingly, rather than implementing proactive measures that impact everyone.
  • Offer instant refunds​ – This may be something you want to limit to VIP customers. ​
  • Offer free returns​ – Again, it’s something you may want to limit to VIP customers or certain markets.​
  • Clearer sizing guides and more accurate descriptions and product images​ – Returns online are inevitable but they can be reduced.


eCommerce Returner #2: The Eco Warrior Rises

eCommerce Returner #2: The Eco Warrior Rises

A few years ago, sustainability didn’t feature front and centre of the retail industry, but this has changed dramatically. What used to be a niche concern is very much mainstream. Our second persona is the Eco Warrior, and they care even more than most. People in this category might avoid fast fashion items unless they can prove their sustainable credentials. ​

Eco Warriors are typically aged between 26 and 35, so a little older than our Fast Fashionistas. They care about sustainable options. 54% of those aged 26-35 would opt for a greener option regardless of refund speed, compared to 36% of 56–65-year-olds.​ Additionally, Eco Warriors are willing to pay a premium to process their return in a more environmentally friendly manner.​

This type of shopper likes to know the most sustainable option and will look for electric vehicles on the carrier option list. They will opt for pick up and drop off solutions such as convenience stores or lockers over collection from home, and of course, they will be most likely eCommerce Returner to opt for a paperless return rather than printing at home.​


Our Advice for Eco Warrior Rises

  • Offer greener carrier options for your returns​ – Look at adding electric vehicle and bicycle fleets​, inner city drop off locations such as convenience stores​, and lockers ​to your logistics network.
  • Educate and champion the greener options​ – 19% don’t know what carrier or returns option is necessarily the greenest​.
  • Go paperless​ – Using an online portal can reduce paper wastage by up to 60% with around 68% of consumers choosing to print in store last year​.
  • Shout about your sustainability​ – Make sure your sustainability initiatives are in your returns policy​.


eCommerce Returner #3: The Returns Family Values

eCommerce Returner #3: The Returns Family Values

The Returns Family Values is a busy family managing the commute, school run, and other elements of a hectic family life simultaneously. The last thing they want is added inconvenience from an inflexible returns process.​

This group wants plenty of options to make a return as they travel across town commuting, picking up their kids from after school clubs, returning as one of the kids inevitably forgot something, and shopping. During lockdown, The Returns Family Values were one of the highest adopters of collection from home. However, they are the group most likely to return back to using other options such as convenience stores, post office and lockers, once we get back to a semblance of normal.​

This eCommerce Returner is willing to pay or pay extra for convenience in any shape or form. Time is very valuable for this group. Our results show a quarter of consumers would be prepared to pay more for a premium return that was convenient for them. Younger shoppers and adults with children are the most willing to pay for a premium option at 36%.​

They do tend to take longer to process a return than some other personas. Often processing it online but then letting the parcels sit at the front door or in the boot of the car for a few more days.​

Our Advice for The Returns Family Values

  • Multi carrier options​ – Offer plenty of options including collection from home​, Post Office, convenience stores, lockers, and any PUDO solution along a commuter route​.
  • Don’t worry about charging for returns​ – Most customers will value free returns, but this group will pay for more convenient options, so offer them even if there’s a cost attached.​
  • Longer return windows​ – This won’t necessarily equate to more returns and has the added benefit of reducing the stress on your customers and the customer service team.


eCommerce Returner #4: The Cautious Returner Enters Online

eCommerce Returner #4: The Cautious Returner Enters Online

The cautious returner doesn’t return often, in fact only 55% of those over the age of 55 (coincidentally the age profile of this returner) have indeed made a return online, but they do want reassurances that the process will be easy just in case if they do need to. ​

For this shopper, communication is key. 47% of 56-65-year-olds would like to be informed more, with the survey average sitting at around 36%. They like to be kept in the know and are the most likely to check the returns policy for tracking services and will contact customer services during the process for an update if there isn’t an accurate tracking solution available. “Where is My Return” calls can be a huge source of inbound enquiries, so making sure you meet the needs of this type of shopper will pay dividends.

They are unfortunately more vocal about bad experiences. 22% of them stated that their most recent experience was frustrating. They also used words like difficult, inconvenient, and expensive. So, it’s important to try and keep them happy!​ Cost is a big consideration for them, in making the purchase and the cost for return, but the good news is they don’t mind waiting for a refund. ​

Our Advice for The Cautious Returner Enters Online

  • Make your returns policy easy to find​ – Cautious Returners don’t suffer fools. They are the most likely group to check the policy so make it easy to locate on your website.​#
  • Use carrier services or an RMS with tracking capabilities​ – Make this obvious on the returns policy page and highlight which carriers have tracking when processing the return online.​
  • Offer free returns​ – They simply don’t expect to pay for returns and will use it as a comparison method between retailers.​
  • Keep them updated​ – Via HTML emails or SMS


eCommerce Returner #5: The Lockdown Surfer Tests the Waters Online

eCommerce Returner #5: The Lockdown Surfer Tests the Waters Online

Whether new to online or just to buying from certain retailers or product categories, our final eCommerce Returner is finding their feet online.​

There is no specific age group as all groups were forced to try new e-tailers or purchase new products over lockdown, but those over 55 make up a larger proportion of the persona.  

They want clear and easy to read policies. They are of course new to online shopping and won’t immediately know what your return policies are, so they respond well to retailers that make it easy for them.​ They’re most likely to shop for Home & Garden, Electronics, Loungewear, and Sports & Leisure. These categories saw huge ecommerce spikes, especially between April and July of last year where sales rocketed well over 100% for many retailers. ​

For this group collection from home has proven popular. They may well branch into new ways of processing their returns but for now they are sticking with the comfortable option. Collection from home overall has risen by 27% in lockdown and this group of Lockdown Surfers are the most likely to do so.​

This group will also process and send back returns quickly. They’re eager to adopt the ways of shopping online and will be on the ball with processing and sending back their returns. It’s likely that their new online shopping habits will be here to stay post Covid, so something to consider going forward.​

Our Advice for The Lockdown Surfer Test the Waters Online

  • Offer collection from home​ – As they are predominately new online, collection from home is an easy to trust carrier option.​
  • Make your returns policy clear to read​ – Outline price, return method options, window length, and refund speed clearly and concisely.​
  • Prove you put your customers first​ – Long return windows, free returns, and positive reviews of your returns experience online


What next?

As said earlier, the vast majority of our survey respondents neatly fit into one of these five categories. Try and gather insight and feedback from your customers to see which eCommerce Returns make up the bulk of your customers, and tailer your returns policy with them in mind. For many retailers, they will have a few or possibly all of these personas as regular customers. So it’s important to apply as much of the best practice advice as possible and maintain a flexible returns policy and process.

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