Best practices for managing and reducing ecommerce returns
Get tips and tactics for improving your overall returns experience, plus advice for reducing the likelihood of customers needing to request returns at all.
Convincing online shoppers to buy with your ecommerce brand is strongly linked to the quality of your returns policy. Studies have found that there is a strong correlation between an increase in sales proportional to the generosity of return policies, and 92% of customers are likely to return to a site that has a convenient return policy. In short, a customer-friendly approach to returns and refunds is an essential component in your ecommerce strategy. In this post, we’ll explore best practices for offering a positive returns experience, and ways you can reduce the likelihood of returns happening in the first place.
What is the average return rate in ecommerce?The return rate for ecommerce is dependent on your industry. For instance, a 2021 study on consumer behaviours in the UK found that online women’s clothing stores saw nearly a quarter of orders being returned, while beauty products saw only 4%. However, returns are a cross-industry phenomenon, with the same study finding that a quarter of consumers return between 5-15% of items they buy online.
What are the main reasons for returns?Interestingly, studies suggest that brick-and-mortar sales result in less than half as many returns as online sales. Primarily, this is because when customers buy online, they’re unable to physically see or try on the product they’re buying, meaning they’re more likely to change their mind about the order once they see it in the flesh. The same study shows that within the clothing industry, for example, returns are driven mainly by incorrect sizes — a direct result of customers being unable to try products on before buying.
How do returns affect customer loyalty?Customers have come to expect a convenient and generous return policy from online retailers, with 2 in 3 shoppers saying that the time it takes to receive a refund affects their decision to shop with a brand again. Similarly, an efficient and timely returns experience results in 92% of customers making repeat purchases with a brand. Customer retention is therefore strongly linked to a company’s return policy: the more timely and convenient for the customer, the more likely they are to stay loyal to a business.
Strategies for handling ecommerce returnsSince a good return experience is so crucial to customer loyalty, it’s important that businesses develop good strategies for handling ecommerce returns. With that in mind, here are some tactics on how to best approach returns:
Clearly display your returns policyWith how closely linked convenient return policies are to successful purchases, it’s important that your policy can be easily found by consumers during the buying process. Provide a clear link to your returns policy, including at checkout. Make sure your returns policy includes:
- How long the customer has to return a product
- What ‘return’ means (ie, does return mean when the item is posted or received by your business?)
- Any costs associated with returns
- The condition items must be returned in
- Any limitations to your returns policy (eg if certain items can’t be returned)
- What will happen if a return is rejected