5 Strategies to Reduce E-commerce Returns & Boost Profits

5 Strategies to Reduce E-commerce Returns & Boost Profits

Julie Cauville

Julie Cauville

January 6, 2023

For e-commerce businesses and retail brands, online returns and exchanges pose a serious challenge.

For online shoppers that often use Amazon and have been trained to expect free returns for their online purchases, it's important to maintain a positive, no-hassle customer experience. According to Shopify, e-commerce returns occur at a 20% rate, and during the holiday season, that rate can rise to 30%.

This year, as the coronavirus drives more consumers to do their holiday shopping online, it’s more essential than ever to develop a plan to manage product returns and exchanges. That way, you’ll be able to maintain and grow your profit margins by increasing your conversion rates at checkout and lowering the costs of your bottom line.

1. Offer clear product descriptions and high-quality product images.

According to a survey by Narvar, 51% of online shoppers have returned an item because it needed to be described or shown online.

By providing detailed, accurate product descriptions and high-quality images, you can help reduce the number of returns due to miscommunication or unrealistic expectations. This allows customers to understand the product before making a purchase, which can help reduce instances of buyers receiving items that do not meet their expectations.

Clear product descriptions should include information such as the materials used, dimensions, weight, colour, and any other relevant details. This helps customers make informed decisions about their purchases and ensures they know exactly what they are getting.

Warby Parker is an eyewear company known for its clear product descriptions and high-quality product images. Each product page includes detailed information about the frame materials, lens type, fit, and multiple photos of the product being worn. The brand also offers its customers the opportunity to try on their pairs to ensure that they fit virtually. This helps customers choose the right frames for their needs and reduces the likelihood of returns.

Warby Parker's clients' virtual glasses are more real than life and allow them to easily project themselves with

High-quality product images are also crucial in reducing returns. Customers should be able to see the product from multiple angles and get a sense of its size and scale.

It's a good idea to include close-up shots of any significant features or details and images of the product being used or worn. This helps customers visualise how the product will look in real life and can help prevent them from returning items that do not meet their expectations.

The online home goods retailer Wayfair uses high-quality product images to help customers visualise how furniture and home decor will look in their space.

Each product page includes multiple pictures of the item from different angles and photos of the item used in a home setting. This helps customers get a sense of the size and scale of the item and can help prevent them from returning items that do not meet their expectations.

Wayfair even goes so far as to add its very detailed information to its product photos

Overall, providing clear product descriptions and high-quality product images is essential in reducing returns in e-commerce. By giving customers all the information they need to make an informed decision about their purchase, you can help ensure that they are satisfied with their purchase and less likely to return it.

2. Provide sizing charts or fit guides.

A study by the National Retail Federation found that almost a third of all returns are made because the item didn't fit or needed to be the right size.

Offering sizing charts or fit guides can help customers select the correct size and reduce the number of returns due to sizing issues. This can be especially important for clothing and footwear, as size and fit can be significant factors in customer satisfaction.

Many brands do a great job of providing sizing charts and fit guides to help customers make informed decisions about their purchases.

Here are a few examples:

Adidas gives ultra-precise sizing advice. For example, the brand indicates which models fit small and shares recommendations based on a customer's previous orders.

In March 2022, Walmart announced that it is taking the customer experience further by launching virtual fitting rooms in partnership with start-up company Zeekits.

This innovative new feature allows customers to try on clothing using a smartphone app virtually. Customers upload a photo of themselves and can see how clothing items will look on them. The virtual fitting rooms are designed to provide customers with a more convenient and personalised shopping experience.

example of a dress worn by several models of different sizes

3. Offer free return shipping.

A survey by UPS found that 79% of consumers expect free return shipping when they make an online purchase.

Offering free return shipping can be an effective way to reduce returns in e-commerce and increase customer satisfaction.

By eliminating the cost and hassle of returning a product, you can make it easier for customers to replace items that do not meet their expectations. This can help reduce the number of returns due to dissatisfaction with the returns process. Many customers are hesitant to make a return because they are concerned about the cost and effort involved.

To make the most of this strategy, it's essential to make it visible on your website that you offer free return shipping. You can use a banner to promote this feature prominently on your homepage and mention it on your product pages and checkout flows. This will help ensure that customers are aware of this benefit and are more likely to take advantage of it if needed.

The online retailer Zappos is known for its excellent customer service, and one of the ways it excels is by offering free return shipping on all of its products. Zappos is displaying its free return shipping policy on the homepage, meta description and other important areas of its website.

Zappos displays its returns policy in its metadescription so that it appears first when the marketplace name is typed

4. Allow for easy exchanges or store credits.

Offering exchanges or store credits instead of refunds can reduce the number of returns and increase customer satisfaction and conversion rate!

One of the benefits of offering store credits is that they can encourage customers to keep the item or purchase something else instead of returning it. By providing a store credit, you can give the customer the option to try the product again or to choose a different product instead.

Research has shown that offering store credits can be even more effective at reducing returns than offering refunds. According to our Merchants Scale Study 2022, 43% of buyers spent more money on our merchant’s store when they used their store credit, which suggests that store credits can also be an effective way to drive sales.

To make the most of this strategy, it's essential to make the process of requesting an exchange or store credit as easy as possible.

Using a return portal enables FROM FUTURE to offer an incredible return experience to their customers by making it super easy for them to request a return. By providing a simple and convenient way for customers to request an exchange or store credit, you can help reduce returns and improve customer satisfaction.

From Future uses a return portal in its own image

💙 Bigblue Tip

Over 30% of European shoppers do not have a printer. Make it easy for them to return their order, without having to print, with Bigblue's Printerless Return feature.

Once the return is confirmed, a barcode is generated automatically in the returns portal. They just need to scan it at the Post Office to print the slip and send their parcel.

5. Encourage customers to reach out with questions or concerns before making a purchase.

By allowing customers to ask questions or voice any concerns before making a purchase, you can help ensure that they are fully informed and confident in their decision. This can help reduce instances of customers receiving items that do not meet their expectations, which can lead to returns.

Unbottled is an e-commerce brand that provides excellent customer service thanks to its chat feature on its website. Located at the bottom right of the website, the chat feature allows customers to quickly find answers to their questions or send a message to the company's customer service team.

The Unbottled chat is interactive, comprehensive and makes you want to write to the brand

🤜🤛 Bigblue’s friends

Tools like Gorgias and Zendesk help automate and resolve your customer support tickets. Tools like Attentive and Hello-Charles allow you to contact and exchange with your customers and prospects on other communication channels like WhatsApp or per SMS.

Brands can also encourage customers to ask questions or concerns before purchasing their social accounts.

One brand that does this exceptionally well is Asphalte, a ready-to-wear brand that only sells its products by pre-order.

Because customers can only try on the products after purchasing them, Asphalte needs to provide exceptional customer service and encourage customers to reach out with any questions or concerns. The brand does this by engaging with its customers on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where it posts updates and responds to customer inquiries.

Asphalt regularly posts previews of their new products and asks its subscribers what they think

By implementing these strategies, e-commerce brands can improve the customer experience and reduce the number of returns. Overall, reducing returns in e-commerce is important for the success of any online business. Excellent customer service and easy purchase processes can reduce returns, increase customer satisfaction, and boost sales and profitability for e-commerce brands.

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