In recent years, significant sales have shifted from stationary retail to the internet, which has resulted in the enormous growth of e-commerce. Nevertheless, there is one critical aspect that threatens the success of the business model, namely, consumer returns. While the amount of research on this topic has increased noticeably over the last few years, little is known about the extent of returns and their economic and ecological consequences, as well as about changes over time. Against this background, this paper presents the results of a long-term trend study conducted among German e-tailers from various product group clusters. With an annual turnover of more than $80 billion in 2019, Germany is the sixth-largest business-to-consumer e-commerce market. The study shows that consumer returns are a massive challenge for e-tailers that should not be underestimated. This research adds knowledge about the reverse part of the e-commerce business model. For businesses, the collected data can be used for benchmarking purposes and can help to improve e-tailers' decision-making systems. Societally, this study provides a basis for the quantification of the environmental impact of returns.
E-commerce, Consumer Returns, Return Rates, Return Costs, Ecological Impact