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Returns for D2C and corporate brands: customer proximity ends with returns



Published on: May 14, 2023

Updated: September 5, 2023


The current “D2C Returns Study” by parcelLab shows: Those who return their orders to brand manufacturers and D2C brands sometimes have to wait weeks for a refund of their invoice. And the customer experience in the case of returns can also be greatly improved in other respects.


Munich, May 16, 2023. No online shipper in this world likes it when customers return products. But for brand manufacturers and D2C brands, they often just don’t seem to be included in the business plan. At least that’s what the results of parcelLab’s latest “D2C Returns Study” suggest. The specialist for shipping communication placed test orders with 50 classic brand manufacturers and young D2C brands each in the first quarter of 2023. The conclusion: the customer experience that D2C brands offer their customers in the event of a cancellation is significantly worse than the returns experience at the 100 largest German online stores.

For example, customers of D2C brands have to bear the return costs themselves at more than half of the companies analyzed. Among the corporate brands, only one in five passed on the return charges to their customers. A similar service gap between corporate and D2C brands can be seen in returns processing: 36 percent of D2C brands, but only ten percent of corporate brands, leave their customers to deal with the return of orders completely on their own and provide no information either in the shipping communication or in the package about what to do if the goods are not to their liking.

Returns communication: Arrived still does not mean refunded

Once consumers have sent their returns, the big wait – and anxiety – begins: Hopefully the return won’t get lost! And when will the invoice that has already been paid be refunded? Online retailers can address the questions and concerns of their customers with transparent returns communication. But our test shows: There is still room for improvement here, too.

Only 36 percent of corporate brands and two-thirds of D2C brands inform their customers that they have refunded the invoice amount. One in four D2C brands and one in three corporate brands leave their customers in the dark about the processing status of the return throughout the entire process.

Refunds are a matter of luck

Another surprising aspect was how long it took for orders to be refunded. Here, the point clearly goes to the corporate brands: in 53 percent of cases, the refund took a maximum of seven days. Among the D2C brands, only 34 percent managed that. Instead, one in five D2C brands made us wait over 28 days for a refund. And for one in ten orders, the refund had still not been issued after several weeks when the study was printed.


“A good shopping experience is even more important than usual in times when consumers’ money is not so loose,” says parcelLab co-founder Anton Eder, summarizing the study results. “And the shopping experience also includes the experience after the purchase. Customer-friendly returns processing is a relevant factor in determining whether or not a customer will make a second purchase from a brand.”

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