78% of customers more likely to buy online if the company offers free returns

New research by card payment provider Paymentsense has revealed the brands most commonly searched for in terms of their free return policies.

Approximately, 78% of customers said they are more likely to purchase from a brand if they offer free returns, as it makes the process easier.

With this in mind, Paymentsense analysed search volumes for the top 500 retailers in the UK to see which brands were being searched for in relation to ‘free returns’. The team then analysed the top 20 brands’ websites to see what returns policies they actually offer.

The top 20 brands where free returns are most in-demand by British shoppers

Rank Retailer “Free Returns” UK Ave. Monthly Google Search Volume Do they offer free returns online in the UK?
1 Amazon 4,400 Yes. Most items from Amazon can be returned for free within 30 days.
2 Asos 1,600 Yes. ASOS offers free 28 day returns.
3 Shein 880 Yes. Shein offers free returns within 60 days.
4 Zara 880 Yes. Zara offers free returns within 30 days.
5 Boohoo 590 Yes. Boohoo offers free returns in 28 days.
6 Missguided 590 Yes. Missguided offers free returns within 28 days.
7 Aliexpress 480 Yes. Aliexpress offers free returns within 15 days.
8 Nike 480 Yes. Nike offers free returns within 60 days.
9 Ebay 390 Ebay returns vary depending on the seller’s return policy.
10 Overstock 320 No, Overstock does not offer free returns. Shipping costs are the customer’s responsibility.
11 Adidas 320 Yes. Adidas offers free returns within 60 days (excluding hype products such as YEEZY which have a 14 day return period).
12 Sports Direct 320 No, Sports Direct does not offer free returns. Shipping costs are the customer’s responsibility.
13 Uniqlo 320 No, Uniqlo does not offer free returns. A £2.95 shipping fee is applied to all online returns.
14 House Of Fraser 260 No, House of Fraser does not offer free returns. Customers must pay for any return delivery costs, except where the wrong item has been sent to you or the item is defective.
15 Nasty Gal 260 Yes. Nasty Gal offers free returns within 28 days.
16 JD Sports 210 Yes. JD Sports offers free returns within 14 days.
17 Next 210 No, Next does not offer free returns. Returns are charged at £2 per return made.
18 H&M 210 Yes. H&M offers free 28 day returns.
19 Apple 170 Yes. Apple offers free returns within 14 days.
20 Urban Outfitters 170 Yes. Urban Outfitters offers free returns within 30 days.


Out of the top 500 retailers in the UK, Amazon came out on top, with on average 4,400 searches related to free returns per month. Amazon is the most-searched-for brand in the UK at 414 million searches a month for its brand name alone. Customers will be happy to hear you can return your item for free within 30 days.

Following Amazon is clothing retailer ASOS at 1,600 ‘free return’ related searches a month. While at the other end of the table, is Apple and Urban Outfitters, both with 170 searches per month. Alixepress saw the highest growth in searches for ‘free returns’ at an 84% increase over the last 12 months. This brought the brand to seventh place.

Out of the top 20, only six brands (30%) did not offer free returns to all UK customers.

‘Free returns’ driving the increase in serial refunders in the UK

High levels of returns can cause strain to a business’s supply chain due to higher package volumes. 52% of shoppers are unlikely to use an online retailer again if they’re charged for returns, but by offering free returns, brands open themselves up to serial refunders who are likely to take advantage of the offering and order more products than they need.

In the UK, one in three customers return a product once a month. Paymentsense’s data of anonymised transactions from over 54,000 Paymentsense card machines across the UK shows UK small businesses lost an average £15,600 a month due to serial refunders in 2021. This comes as January refunds continue to grow 39% year-on-year.

With more companies offering ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ and ‘Free Returns’ options to keep up with customer preferences, returning items has never been so easy. This has led to many mistreating the ease of refunding and returning items.

The three most common reasons causing recurring refunds:

  • Returning items due to unnecessarily ordering the same item multiple times
  • Having issues or being untruthful with the item’s arrival or condition
  • Using purchases and then returning them for a full refund (known as ‘wardrobing’ when done with clothing items)

Jon Knott, Head of Customer Insights at Paymentsense, said: “Most online retailers have evolved their returns policy to meet customer expectations and demands. This year in particular, many businesses have implemented free delivery and returns, as well as offering multiple ways of returning an item, either in-store or online.

“The rising dominance of online shopping was predicted to happen due to convenience and easier price comparison. However, this transition was sped up massively during the pandemic as lockdown restrictions caused more people to stay at home, as opposed to heading out physically to the shops. As online shopping continues to rise in popularity, businesses are seeing higher levels of product returns as consumption increases to an all-time high.

“Although customers are pleased they are getting their money back, high levels of product returns can have a profound impact on small businesses. Card machine providers need to work towards providing solutions for businesses as the shopping behaviour of customers no longer aligns with the operations of businesses today.”