Retailers worldwide have adapted their delivery and returns propositions to ensure customer and staff safety during the Covid-19 crisis – with the likely knock-on impact being to transform consumer expectations of online shopping in the long term. 

The latest report from data and analytics company GlobalData, ‘Covid-19 impact on delivery and returnsinvestigates actions retailers are taking in the UK and internationally to improve the safety of their delivery methods and the impacts this has on delivery times and costs.

The firm explains the crisis will change consumers’ online shopping behaviour and has the potential to lead to a rise in home and contactless deliveries which have been introduced to help retailers keep their online operations open.

“The impacts of Covid-19 have the potential to decrease the popularity of Click & Collect beyond the outbreak as more people are expected to work from home in the long term, so will be able to accept home deliveries,” explains Emily Salter, analyst at GlobalData.

“Additionally, when stores re-open many consumers will be reluctant to visit busy locations due to lingering concerns around their health. Consumers may switch to third-party pickup options instead, especially lockers as this fulfilment method has no contact with others, as long as shoppers are reassured about the cleanliness of the facilities.”

Salter notes returns timings and methods are also being affected by the pandemic with many consumers being unable to return items if they are self-isolating, or if the shop they usually return items to has closed.

“In response to this, retailers have extended their returns periods to either a set number of days – which may not be long enough to guarantee that stores will have re-opened and so will need reviewing – or a specified number of days after stores re-open. Consumers may come to expect this longer returns period, though many will not want to wait this long for a refund so this change will have little impact on long term behaviour.”

She notes in particular, GlobalData expects there to be an increase in returns rates for clothing and footwear.

“Many shoppers will want to return products that they purchased before the crisis, have not worn and no longer have a reason to keep, especially occasionwear purchased for events such as parties and weddings that have been cancelled.

“Retailers need to be prepared for this influx of returns, especially after stores re-open, and ensure that they refund customers within their stated timeframes.”