How to Reduce Your eCommerce Return Rate

When shopping online, consumers don’t have the opportunity to ‘try-before-you-buy’ and this uncertainty creates an increased return rate. It was estimated that the 2018 Black Friday sales cost fashion retailers a staggering 1.6 billion pounds in returns. Cost isn’t the only struggle returns cause, as an online store owner, you will be all too familiar with the time and resource it takes to process returns, and it can also play a big role in damaging customer loyalty. Even if your eCommerce business has return processes in place to minimise impact, it’s still important to reduce your return rates to maximise your profit.

Why should you reduce your return rates?

Firstly, why is it important to reduce your returns rate? Online retailers often have large revenue targets to hit and this revenue must be generated by sales. In the competitive online retail market, offering free delivery and free returns is becoming the quickest method of increasing sales. However, many businesses fail to consider the massive impact on your returns rate as shoppers are inclined to not only shop more but return more. An increased return rate costs your business in a number of ways including:

  • Refund cost of the returned sale
  • Losing expenditure on the delivery costs
  • Negative impact on the brand image and reputation
  • Potential negative customer reviews
  • Logistical costs of inspecting the item(s), repackaging and placing back in the warehouse

To help you minimise the impact, we’ve put together our suggestions for reducing your return rate.

How can you reduce your return rates?

Make sure your product images, videos and descriptions represent the product accurately

Refrain from altering your images to make a product look a slightly better shade of blue or exaggerate specific features for the sake of how it views on a device. This will only disappoint customers when they receive the product, leading to increased returns and negative reviews. Empower your consumers with a comprehensive high-resolution image gallery. If they can scroll through your products from different angles and zoom in to see product details before purchasing, they have a more realistic understanding of what an item is really like.

Example from Whistles

Businesses must create engaging, relevant product information that answer customer questions. Include as much relevant information as possible regarding the style, material and fit. Similar to Whistles, you could also include the height of the model along with what size clothing they are wearing so consumers can gain insight into how they fit. Even better, you could integrate a 360° video of models wearing the clothes.

Example from sofasofa

This is applicable to non-clothes retailers too. sofasofa include dimensions for each of their products so the customer can consider whether it will fit through their front door before buying. Making this information readily available, a shopper will know everything they need to before clicking buy, reducing the chance of return.

Always have an easy to read size guide

People differ in shape and size and if customers are unsure what size clothing or shoes they should be purchasing from you, they will often buy two sizes with the intention of returning one. To prevent this, make sure your sizing is clear and always make a size guide available. Take a look at this example from N.Peal, you can see how important their size guide is in creating a quick and simple shopping experience for their customers. The sizing ranges from XS-XL with the guide reflecting this as equivalent women’s UK/EU and US dress sizes.

Example from N.Peal

Set up product reviews

In a study conducted by BrightLocal, 91% of 18-34 year olds said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. A positive review or recommendation is an effective method of encouraging the user to continue on their purchasing journey, creating a memorable, trustworthy experience between your business and the user. Genuine product reviews can be a deal maker or breaker, so you should always make time to reply to negative reviews. This will help show your customers that you care, giving the reassurance that you will take the time to correct any misunderstandings.

Beerhawk has a great review system which provides an opportunity to promote some of their 5-star reviews, boosting their reputation and encouraging new customers to convert. Third-party review application, Yotpo, enables brands to effectively leverage their social proof to enhance trust, increase customer loyalty and make better business decisions based on genuine customer feedback.

Example from Beerhawk

Analyse your data

It’s important to know your bestsellers, but it’s even more important to know the average return rate of your products. Reviewing this data, you will gain insight into the products that have a higher than average return rate giving you the opportunity to analyse the issues surrounding this product and generate an understanding of what needs to be improved.

Customer data is also important to consider. Analysing their data, you can identify trends, behaviours, traits and other useful metrics to segment customers who regularly return products versus those who don’t to support your marketing strategy. When releasing campaigns such as your new AW19 collection, you can target the audience that is less likely to return based on historic data and offer them an incentive to encourage the purchase of the products whilst reducing potential returns.

Ask your customers why they have returned an item

By collecting return data via a returns slip or within an online account, you can effectively narrow down ‘problem products’ and why they are being returned. For example, if a number of customers return an item because they received a different product than expected, you may have the wrong SKU or image attached to that item. Equally, you may uncover a sizing or description issue that needs to be resolved.

Provide clear delivery times

Example from Henry London

Many customers return items because they arrived after the expected delivery date and therefore after they needed it for. Ensure you highlight the expected delivery timeframe to avoid miscommunication with the customer. Henry London implement this well by providing clear, concise shipping methods with prices, times and days included.

Example from Hamper

Or, even better, if you can guarantee delivery by specific dates or holidays make sure you’re shouting about it across your website just like Hamper does.

Creating a section on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Customer Enquiries can also act as a central information source covering topics such as delivery timescales, prices and return options. This is also a great way of covering any common questions around specific products. Reviewing questions can feed directly into your product descriptions to ensure FAQs are answered ensuring users can easily find the information they need fast.

Following these tips and tricks will help reduce the inevitable returns that come with online shopping incentives such as free deliveries and returns. Particularly within the fashion industry where customers often order more than one size, if you suddenly start charging for returns, you would likely see your revenue negatively impacted. On the other hand, it’s important to recognise when customers may be taking advantage of your processes. Powerhouse fashion retailer ASOS recently announced a big change to their return policy saying they will monitor ‘serial returners’ with the view to deactivate accounts of people who continuously buy and return clothes.

As a final word of advice, don’t be tempted to make returning an item a difficult and long-winded process to deter customers from returning products. You may receive less returns, but you’ll also receive less repeat business. Instead, continue to make your return process as easy as possible so that customers are likely to become frequent visitors to your site, and concentrate on the quality of your images, sizing, product descriptions and analysis of your return data. If you can get these features right, your return rate is likely to see a drop. If you want further advice around reducing your return rates, reach out to the team today.