Retailers are using tech to fight serial returners

Retailers are fighting back against serial returners as a growing number say they are set to introduce measures to penalise or even ban those suspected of flouting returns rules.

According to new research from Barclaycard, 20 per cent of retailers have made their returns policy stricter over the last year, while a further 19 per cent said they were planning to do so over the coming year.

Retailers like Marks & Spencer are investing in new technologies like Texel, which uses a shopper’s smartphone camera to accurately measure their body, then find clothing that best suits their shape and size, thus reducing the chances of items being returned because they did not fit.

READ MORE: M&S invests in clothes fitting technology to reduce returns

Other retailers have begun sending warning emails and deactivating the accounts of customers who return too many items, sending back items that have been used, returning goods without the right packaging or missing returns deadlines.

Despite these measures, Barclaycard says the number of serial returners is still on the rise, with 26 per cent of retailers surveyed stating they have seen a rise in returns over the past 24 months.

Serial returning is especially prevalent in millennials who are more than twice as likely to be penalised, with 48 per cent of 25-34 year olds admitting to purchasing items they fully intended to return.

  National average Consumers aged 25-34
Proportion of consumers penalised for returning too many goods 8 per cent 21 per cent
Proportion of consumers penalised for returning goods that have been used / worn 8 per cent 21 per cent
Proportion of consumers penalised for returning goods without the right packaging or labels 10 per cent 22 per cent
Proportion of consumers penalised for returning goods after the deadline 11 per cent 25 per cent

“The volume of goods being returned continues to rise and consumers have come to expect free returns as standard – otherwise they will shop elsewhere,” Barclaycard’s director of strategy Anita Liu Harvey said.

“As a result, we are seeing retailers implementing stricter returns policies to try to clamp down on serial returners and reduce the impact that returns are having on their business.

“These more stringent policies have begun to affect consumers, with some retailers starting to send warning emails to customers about accounts being deactivated, should unusual or suspicious behaviour continue. On the flip side, it does seem shoppers are becoming more mindful about the purchases they make and the impact their returns could have on the environment.”

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