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The Top 12 Tips to Reduce Product Returns in E-commerce [2023]

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Product returns can seriously drain your e-commerce site’s bottom line. That’s why it’s highly important to reduce product returns. 

Think about it.

Every time a customer returns an item, your online store loses a sale. Plus, your e-commerce site also loses time, shipping, and handling costs. In short, reducing product returns must become a key priority in your strategy moving forward.

The big question is, “how to reduce product returns?”

In this article, we are going to look at the causes of product returns. We will also discuss how to reduce product returns in e-commerce in 2023 and beyond. 

What are the Top 5 Reasons for Product Returns in E-commerce?

On the whole, the average e-commerce return rate is about 30%. This product return rate sharply contrasts the average 9% product return rate in physical stores. Therefore, understanding why e-commerce product returns occur is crucial.

Let’s take a look at the top reasons for e-commerce product returns:

#1: Received the wrong item

On average, research indicates that 23% of returns occur due to customers receiving the wrong item. While honest mistakes happen, shipping the wrong item or an item with the wrong characteristics (such as the wrong size or color) can lead to product returns. Moreover, you may lose that customer for good. Consequently, it’s crucial to get product shipping right.

#2: The product looks different in real life

Roughly 22% of product returns in e-commerce happen because the product looks different in real life. This situation is complicated since product ads must reflect an item’s true features. Using professional stock photos may seem enticing, but at the end of the day, it may lead to disappointing customers.

#3: Received a damaged product

About 20% of e-commerce product returns happen as a result of receiving a damaged product. Unfortunately, this situation may be out of your control. For instance, items damaged during shipping are not something your e-commerce site can prevent. Customers, however, may pin the blame on you. That’s why reliable shipping carriers are an important way to ensure that items arrive safely.

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#4: Inaccurate product information

Including inaccurate product information can quickly boost your e-commerce average return rate. Customers want to get in-depth information before deciding on a purchase. However, if a customer realizes a product does not match the information on the product page, they can quickly return it. 

Other reasons

35% of product returns occur due to a number of various reasons. These reasons include situations such as a customer changing their mind, someone returning a gift, or a fraudster looking to cheat the system. As you can see, these reasons can quickly drive up your e-commerce average return rate.

Understanding why e-commerce product returns happen is a great place to start. From there, you can begin taking steps to ensure you reduce product returns. In doing so, you can jumpstart your e-commerce site’s bottom line, drive profitability, and keep your business growing.

What are the E-commerce Average Product Return Rates?

Average e-commerce return rates may vary according to research. Here is a look at some cold hard figures:

While these figures are certainly eye-opening, looking at individual industries reveals deeper insights:

We can see specific trends when you break the e-commerce average return rate based on industries. For instance, a survey revealed that 41% of respondents bought multiple items with the intention of returning some of them. For instance, folks buy multiple pairs of shoes to see which fits best. They keep the pair they like the best and return the others. 

The previous example underscores how e-commerce average return rates can happen for any number of reasons. Therefore, it’s important to determine the best way to reduce product returns. Taking proactive action can go a long way toward helping you reduce returns in e-commerce.

How to Reduce Product Returns: 12 Simple Tips

Reducing your e-commerce average return rate should be high on your priority list. Nevertheless, the question is how to reduce product returns. The following 12 tips will help you cut down on your e-commerce average return rate ensuring your e-commerce site continues growing.

#1: Get product images right

One of the worst mistakes is misrepresenting products through images. For instance, using high-quality stock photos may seem like a great idea. These photos look nice and help create an attractive ad. However, this approach can do more harm than good if the product doesn’t actually look like the photo. 

e-commerce return policy example
Source: try.pickystory.com

Please remember that customers can easily become disappointed if products don’t look anything like the ad photos.

So, what can you do about it?

Get images right!

If possible, taking your own product photos will help you paint a true picture of your items. Most smartphones have great cameras nowadays. However, investing in a solid picture camera can go a long way toward significantly reducing product returns.

#2: Use accurate descriptions

Getting photos right is a great first step. Following that up with accurate product descriptions helps reduce product returns significantly. Please remember that customers want to get as much product information as possible. Giving customers a low down on your products is the best way to reduce product returns.

reduce product returns
Source: try.pickystory.com

However, writing product descriptions can be time-consuming, especially if you have a large catalog.

So, what can you do about it?

First, check out manufacturer websites. Manufacturers generally make product information available. Manufacturers offer information related to sizing, materials, sourcing, and so on.

Also, using AI-generated descriptions can save time and money. These tools use AI to create product descriptions in seconds. All you need to do is feed the information, and you’re all set.

#3: Implement size guides or fitting tools

Size guides and fitting tools can greatly reduce product returns. Size guides help customers figure out product dimensions. As a result, customers can get an accurate picture of product sizes in real life. 

e-commerce average return rate

Similarly, fitting tools allow customers to determine if a product is the right size. Fitting tools are perfect for footwear and apparel. Customers won’t need to purchase three or four items to choose which one they like best. Customers can be sure about what they’re getting. This approach reduces product returns across the board.

#4: Get customer reviews

Customer reviews can go a very long way toward reducing product returns. Specifically, customer reviews take the guesswork out of evaluating products.

How so?

Let’s put it this way: folks like to ask friends, neighbors, or colleagues for their product opinions and recommendations. These opinions greatly influence purchasing decisions. Thus, customer reviews allow customers to make up their minds.

do reviews reduce returns

But there are two things to consider.

First, be transparent about customer reviews. Transparency includes displaying negative reviews. Showing only positive ones does a disservice to customers and your e-commerce site. If your products only show glowing reviews, you open the door to disappointment. That’s why it’s best, to be honest. Honesty includes good and bad reviews.

Second, reward your customers for their honest reviews. Rewards such as exclusive discount codes, coupons, or special offers entice customers to drop a comment on your e-commerce site or social media. Above all, honest reviews help new customers build realistic expectations. In doing so, you can reduce your e-commerce average return rate significantly.

#5: Focus on customer service

Customer service is a surefire way to avoid product returns.

How so?

Think about it this way:

If customers have issues with your products, it’s better if they reach out than simply returning an item. More often than not, questions can be cleared up over the phone or by email. Live chat is also a great way to interact with customers.

e-commerce product return policy

Please remember that great customer service starts with being there for customers. Customers value companies that take the time to answer their questions and address their concerns. 

Be clear about your willingness to provide support. Encourage customers to reach out before returning items. Post-sales emails are a great way to let customers know you’re there if they need you.

#6: Get things right the first time

Receiving the wrong item is one of the top reasons for product returns. This situation also involves the wrong characteristics, such as size and color. 

So, what can you do about it?

Strive to get orders right the first time. In doing so, you can greatly reduce product returns. Automated inventory management and shipping tools can help you avoid confusion and mistakes. Automated systems are great when you manage off-site warehouses or various storage locations.

average return rate e-commerce

Also, automating shipping labels can vastly minimize the likelihood of human error. Automated tools allow your staff to match inventory data with shipping labels. This combination allows your staff to get orders right the first time.

#7: Focus on packaging

Packaging is the single most effective thing you can do to avoid product damage. Packing products appropriately (i.e., bubble wrap) protects items during shipping. 

Now, you might be thinking, “doesn’t special packaging add to my shipping costs?”

Let’s look at it this way: 

Bubble wrap and double-lined boxes may cost a few cents more per package. That additional cost is literally pennies compared to the cost of product returns. Consequently, spending a little more on the right packaging can work wonders to reduce your e-commerce average return rate.

tips for reducing product returns

A good rule of thumb is to visualize how each package will reach its destination. Visualizing the journey will allow you to assess the appropriate packaging type adequately.

#8: Optimize your processes

Business is an ongoing learning experience. Just when you think you have it all figured out, something changes. As a result, you learn new ways to do the same things. This learning process leads to optimizing your processes. 

When you optimize your processes, you can slash the time it takes to get products out the door. You can improve your inventory management. You can improve product packaging. All of these actions result in reducing your e-commerce average return rate.

why do customers return products

So, the next time you think about how to reduce product returns, start by focusing on ways you can improve your processes.

#9: Cut down on serial returners

Some folks out there purposely buy products and return them. While some may engage in fraudulent activity, some folks simply “change their minds.” 

So, what can you do about it?

Be clear about your return policy. Lay out the specific guidelines by which your e-commerce site accepts returns. Implementing blanket return policies such as “free returns” can lead to abuse. 

e-commerce returns solutions

Also, it’s important to keep track of specific customer behavior. Serial returners make themselves evident pretty quickly. As a result, you can proactively engage serial returners. Sending a thank-you email with a helpful reminder about your return policy can greatly reduce product returns.

#10: Make product returns easy

While the aim is to reduce product returns, it’s impossible to avoid them completely. So, it’s worth creating an easy return process. If customers must return an item, don’t make it a hassle for them. Making product returns difficult to discourage them may cause you to lose customers.

How so?

Think about it. It all boils down to customer experience. When customers have negative experiences, the likelihood of them purchasing again goes down the drain. By making things easy for your customers, you can ensure repeat business. 

what is the average product return rate

Making product returns easy is about having a clear return policy. Moreover, be transparent about costs. If you offer free returns, offer free returns. Be upfront if your policy states that customers pay return shipping. Please remember that customers hate unpleasant surprises.

#11: Extend your return policy

Speaking of making returns easy, why not extend your current return policy? For instance, if you currently offer a 15-day return window, extending it to 30 days can help reduce product returns.

Here’s how it works:

The longer customers have to return an item, the more they will put it off. Ultimately, this approach discourages product returns. In contrast, having a tight product return window causes customers to prioritize returns. This situation enhances the likelihood of product returns.

how to reduce product returns

So, don’t be afraid to give customers a little longer to try products. Doing so gives them a little longer to fall in love with your brand.

#12: Build product bundles

One of the major reasons why customers return products is because they buy several products which turn out to be incompatible. If you sell several products that “match”, and other products that don’t go together, setting up product bundles is a great way to reduce returns in your store. 

For example, if you sell bedding, you may see returns if a customer purchases a queen quilt set, but a king set of sheets. Setting up bundles of matching-sized products helps make the purchasing process easier for your customers, and also reduces the likelihood of product returns. 

what are the top reasons for product returns
Source: lushdecor.com

With PickyStory, you can easily create these bundles and sell them as single products in your store. Add bundles to collections (just like regular products) and market them across your advertising channels. 

The best part? When a customer purchases a bundle, inventory for the individual products is adjusted appropriately – you don’t need to do any manual updates. It’s too easy! 

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