How do you set up a good international return?

How do you set up a good international return?

As consumers from all over the EU are starting to buy more online and the internal borders are blurring, there are plenty of opportunities for Dutch online retailers abroad. It is better for entrepreneurs to consider organizing a return policy and process during international expansion, because the differences with the Dutch situation are significant. Paying attention to returns can make the difference between winning and losing.

Cross-border returns were specifically examined in this research year by ShopppingTomorrow,’s knowledge network. A group of experts shared knowledge and experiences in the Expert Group “Improving Cross-Border Returns”, chaired by Districon and hosted by DPD Nederland. In their outline, the experts describe what online entrepreneurs can expect internationally when it comes to returns, what they should consider, what choices they can make and what the customer expects of them.


Experts stress that national returns are difficult to copy, due to large distances, due to different local customs, but also due to different laws and regulations. The basic rules are the same as in the EU, but shipping to the UK involves many complications since Brexit. In France, a widespread ban on destruction will come into effect next year, which will also apply to leftover stocks, returned books, clothing and electronics.

Return journey

Gone are the days when revenues (domestic or foreign) were seen as logistical costs. A well-designed return process offers business opportunities, as the return trip is an essential part of a customer’s journey, according to experts. In their scheme they consider the return journey based on six axes, as shown below. It is clear (with black dots) that options can be made for each subject at different stages of the return journey. Returns also play a role in the buying journey when it comes to communication.

Return choices within the customer journey, based on six themes

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international dynamic

For all six themes (communication, logistics, costs, sustainability, productivity and rest time), the dynamics are different internationally than nationally. The cross-border customer is particularly curious about how to handle the return, the logistics are usually more complex, the costs are higher, the impact on the environment is greater, the lead time is longer and the convenience has a great distinct value. For example, a return gate can remove barriers.

According to experts, the return options should depend on the needs of the customer, which means that they can be different in each country. Thorough research into the needs of local clients is necessary to establish options for each topic and to increase the chance of a successful international return process.


Finally, experts identify a number of return trends across national borders. As companies become more aware of revenue-generating business opportunities, for example by offering exchange options, consumer awareness of the impact of returns on the environment is increasing. Web stores that have value in order take advantage of this and make it transparent, with or without the help of partners. The panel of experts also refers to the emergence of Product-as-Service, or PaaS for short. Usage takes precedence over ownership, which fits in a circular economy. The PaaS marketplace brings a whole new dimension to return: the product goes from user to supplier, then back to a new user.


The International Returns scheme can be downloaded for free from the ShoppingTomorrow website.

In the coming period, Twinkle will pay attention to the results of the ShoppingTomorrow research platform. Expert groups published their conclusions in mid-October in the “Make Now Matter – Today Everything Is Different, Tomorrow” group. The charts can be downloaded for free from the ShoppingTomorrow website. You will find summaries of these in our profile.

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