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ASCM Insights

Online Stores Confront Soaring Return Rates from German Consumers


German shoppers send back 12% of their online purchases, creating huge economic and logistical issues for e-commerce retailers and compelling these businesses to reexamine their return policies. According to a new study by the University of Bamberg, German consumers sent back 5.5 billion euros worth of products last year — more than anywhere else in Europe. The Netherlands followed close behind, trailed by France, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Poland.

Stefan Nicola writes for Bloomberg that e-commerce companies including Amazon and Zalando are looking for ways to help consumers purchase the right product and that there are no surprises when the package is opened: “Online fashion retailer Zalando is trying to cut down on returns … by posting videos of models wearing the apparel and using machine learning technology to match shoppers with the right sizes. Mr. Spex, a German spectacle retailer backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., lets customers virtually try on glasses, placing frames over clients’ headshots as they browse its website. And Amazon has introduced augmented reality tools so that shoppers can see how a piece of furniture looks in their home before they decide to click the ‘buy now’ button.”

To save money and reduce waste, Amazon also says it may increase charges for German shops that don’t streamline packaging. Likewise, Zalando is employing robotics in the hopes of optimizing warehousing processes in order to make them less expensive.

Many companies are providing added information about their products — especially clothing and shoes — through online chats, more detailed descriptions, 360-degree photos and videos. A few companies have begun giving customers discounts in return for honest feedback.

Lars Hofacker, an analyst at EHI Retail Institute in Cologne, is quoted in the article. He says retailers should find ways to entice shoppers to return items in stores because it gives the retailer an opportunity to talk to people in person, thus improving retention.

Master returns in Las Vegas

The Return learning path at ASCM 2019, September 16-18 in Las Vegas,  features numerous educational sessions that address the growth of omnichannel commerce and the complexity of global networks. Speakers will offer real-world strategies to help supply chain organizations of all kinds perfect the reverse-logistics process, enhance customer relationships and maximize return on investment.

E-Commerce Hangover, presented by Tony Sciarrotta, executive director of the Reverse Logistics Association, will explore the growing volume of omnichannel returns, related logistics and customer service issues, and the effects of e-commerce and the internet of things on supply chain.

Heather Howard, vice president at Rothy’s, will be joined by Birdie Bartholomew and David Sobie of omnichannel retail solution provider Happy Returns. They will share proven methods for creating a world-class brand experience via fast, easy and cost-effective returns. Participants will discover how leading retailers are streamlining operations and using vertically integrated solutions to redefine reverse logistics.

Register today at This is an experience I’m certain you will hold onto for a long time.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted through

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