Against a backdrop of rising cost-of-living pressures and the growing use of online channels to purchase goods, Australians are returning items more than ever before, according to new data from Similarweb.

Since the start of 2020, there has been a 131% rise in visits to the refund and return pages of Australian e-commerce brands. The biggest jump was between January 2021 and January 2022 with a 97% surge in traffic.

Searches for the returns pages of Australia’s top e-commerce brands far outpace searches to the refund pages. Between April last year and March this year, there were 290,000 searches for refund policies, which pales in comparison to the more than 1.3 million searches for returns.

The fashion and apparel sector saw the most returns traffic, having grown 10% since the start of the pandemic. The category is led by Shein, which has 14.97% of return and refund traffic.

Visits to consumer electronics pages have fallen by 8.77% since the start of the pandemic, which could be due to the rise in consumer electronics reviews and discussion boards, which means people are thoroughly researching new gadgets before they commit to the purchase.

“If we think back to the trends occurring in Australia along this timeline, we can begin to understand the reasons for this heightened activity,” Similarweb senior vice president for Asia Pacific, Uri Snyder said.

“Over the last few years, people have shopped online more than ever before. This started when pandemic lockdowns removed the option of shopping in store, but continued when people discovered the simplicity and convenience of buying items online. With increased activity comes increased comfort with completing the entire shopping journey online.”