How are Consumers in the UK Returning Products During the Pandemic and Beyond?

3 min readApr 6, 2021

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way that consumers are choosing to shop. E-commerce boomed during 2020 and, as lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and safety measures continue to affect many parts of the world, the popularity of online shopping is set to stay.

With shopping from home now the norm, brands and retailers must also consider how they can retrieve unwanted products from their customers. To meet consumer demands, the returns process must be as quick, easy, and convenient as order deliveries. Just as options such as postal point pick-ups, package lockers, and home delivery is available for outbound, the same multi-channel approach is also highly valuable as part of a return operation.

Preferences for returns during, and after, the pandemic…

We conducted a study with consumers from the United Kingdom which revealed that the majority, 38% of those questioned, would prefer a pick-up service for their returns send-in. As this is usually a more premium and costly option for the customer, it’s interesting that during the pandemic shoppers may be more willing to pay a premium for a return service that allows them to remain at home. As opposed to dropping parcels off at a local postal access point or locker which would require them to travel.

In contrast, it was shown that after the pandemic consumers would change their behavior once more. The largest proportion of shoppers, 37%, indicated that after the pandemic they would prefer to drop returns off at a local collection point. The pick-up option fell in popularity to 32%.

The changing role of physical stores…

Brick-and-mortar stores will always hold value for brands as a physical space where they can connect directly with their consumers. As digital shopping capabilities continue to advance, the role of retail stores will have to adapt to accompany e-commerce operations. Return-to-store options have proven popular with customers but due to the pandemic, and store closures as a result, this function has been paused in many cases.

Our study uncovered that only 12% of the consumer participants interviewed would opt to return in-store during the pandemic. Yet, 19% indicated they would have this as their preferred method for returning after Covid-19 measures were lifted. Indicating that once stores can open their doors, customers will return to return. The research outlined by Forbes also mirrored this outcome, claiming that retail would likely see a comeback by late 2021.

In short, the pandemic has shown that an omnichannel approach for returns is best to allow both brands and consumers access to a flexible and adaptable solution. By offering multiple ways for customers to return, retailers can process these returns faster and retain the value of these products through avenues such as resale. Customer satisfaction is also maintained by offering a returns policy that suits every lifestyle, budget, and location.

During this time, and after, we will continue to survey the market and are curious to see how opinions may shift and change after the pandemic.

To discover how Cycleon can help your brand to optimize returns — get in touch with us here.

*Insights based on a study of consumers across a variety of locations within the United Kingdom. Interviews conducted via