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Online deliveries and returns in the United Kingdom (UK) - statistics & facts

The continuous growth of the B2C and C2C e-commerce markets requires increased investment in customer experience, especially in 'the last mile': the journey that follows purchases from transportations hubs to their final destinations to consumers. An online shopping experience that is delivered smoothly and conveniently matters perhaps more than ever when it comes to ensuring customer loyalty. As a result, online retailers, marketplaces, and e-commerce businesses offer consumers different fulfillment options, ranging from click-and-collect to same-day and time-slot specific deliveries, to free and flexible returns.

Online retail and click-and-collect in the UK

In the United Kingdom (UK), where online retail is expected to constitute more than one-third of all retail revenues by 2024, around 3.5 million parcel shipments took place in 2018. On a sectoral basis, textile, clothing, and footwear stores recorded more sales made online compared to other retail segments. As online channels become increasingly indispensable for retail, the once clear-cut boundaries between brick-and-mortar and online retail disappear, and businesses become hybrids of operating types. Click-and-collect, which combines physical and online retail by drawing consumers to physical shops to claim their online orders, is one example. In the UK, the turnover from click-and-collect is forecast to grow by more than 70 percent between 2018 and 2023. Today, multichannel retailers in the UK offer both store and non-store locations (such as lockers and convenience stores) as click-and-collect points, although the former is more popular and widely available.

What do consumers want from online deliveries?

Recent surveys show that consumers care about free deliveries of their online purchases. Accordingly, retailers oblige them. For one third of UK consumers, having to pay for deliveries was an important barrier to shopping online. Among retailers, a 2019 study showed that only a quarter charged delivery fees. Generally speaking, delivery was either completely free or free above a certain order value.
Returns are another issue of importance in online retailing. While for consumers being able to return their online purchases is a boon, for retailers it is the opposite, as returns are often costly. Similar to expectations from deliveries, returning orders free of charge was an important part of the online shopping experience. Typically, consumers preferred returning items at the post office, although other locations such as convenience stores and the physical stores of the retailer were among preferred channels. Fit issues were given as the primary reason for wanting to return purchases. But the discrepancies between the descriptions of the products and the products themselves were also culprits for nearly 40 percent of consumers who returned items.

The global cost of returns

Retailers are obliging and generous when it comes to returns. But it is still a major problem for today’s e-commerce and online retailing businesses. Globally, the cost of returns reached over one trillion U.S. dollars in 2019. In the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region (EMEA), the cost amounted to 381.8 billion U.S. dollars, surpassing North America, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America regions. A survey looking into the ways retailers are tackling returns revealed that there were several measures to mitigate the problem. Among them making return policies transparent and easy to find on the shop's website, lengthening return timeframes, or even introducing ‘try before you buy’ services.

Interesting statistics

In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 21 most important statistics relating to "Online deliveries and returns in the United Kingdom (UK)".


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