Minimize Returns, Maximize Satisfaction: 7 Proven Techniques for Online Store Owners

Irene Wanja Feb 08, 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes

While there are many benefits to selling your products online vs. a physical store, one thing brick and mortar has on ecommerce is a lower return rate. According to Retail Dive, ecom returns climb as high as 20% (or more), compared to just 9% for offline stores.

This reality can be overwhelming for store owners as a high return rate tends to be very costly in terms of the following:

  • Costs related to shipping and exchanges
  • Whether returned products are in saleable condition
  • Where returned products fit in the resale cycle
  • Shipping replacement orders (that could have been sold to someone else)
  • Extra packaging and man-hours

All these factors chip away at revenue, but the good news is there are a number of things you can do to reduce your store’s return rate.

1. Write robust product descriptions.

Customers need to understand everything relevant to them regarding a product before feeling comfortable enough to make a purchase. So, the more robust your product descriptions, the better! Failing to provide the appropriate information (e.g., functions, features, energy consumption, versatility, durability, comfortability, care instructions, etc.) can result in unhappy customers and returned products, so include all pertinent product details, even if they’re considered to be common knowledge. You and your customers will be glad you did.

2. Provide size guides.

Size is one of the top reasons for order returns, especially when it comes to apparel. As most people have found through their own online shopping adventures, sizing can vary quite drastically between brands, with one’s small being another’s medium, or one’s regular fit being another’s relaxed fit, and so on. 

So, to keep returns down, always provide realistic size guides to help users find the size that’s right for them. And don’t forget measurement guidelines! It’s one thing to display a sizing chart, but you need to show people what measurements to take (and how to take them) so they can apply them to your chart. 

This can be done with a demonstrative image or even a video showing a live person taking the relevant measurements. For instance, a store selling belts could create a video showing users how to measure their waist size, including an extra allowance in case their waist size expands in the future.

3. Include a quiz finder.

Another way to minimize returns is to use a quiz finder. This is ideal for users who are unsure what product best suits their needs. They may know they need a certain product you sell, but if there are variations of it, each with different benefits, a quiz finder can help them figure out which variant to buy.

Here’s how it works: Users are asked three to five questions and the quiz finder will suggest the best product for them based on the answers they provide. This helps erase doubt in people’s minds so they can confidently complete their purchase. And while this method can be a great route for many product types, it’s especially ideal for stores that sell supplements, beauty products, and apparel. 

4. Implement virtual reality.

The use of virtual reality is also great for helping customers find the right products. This technology works through phone applications, where you can see the virtual version of a product on yourself or in a space to determine what variant (size, shape, style, color, etc.) to purchase.

A great example of a store that implements this feature is Warby Parker, an online retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses. Their visitors can virtually try on different glasses to help them find which frame style, color, etc. is most flattering on them.

5. Package your products wisely.

Both poor product packaging and rough handling during shipment can cause products to arrive broken or defective. While ecommerce store owners can’t control how their products are handled during the shipment process, if they sufficiently package them before sending them out (e.g., using the correct size box/envelope, adequate padding, and other support), they can all but guarantee their safe arrival to the customer, barring any excessive, unforeseen circumstances, of course … like being hit by a Mack truck.

If you’re unsure of the best way to safely or correctly package something, try reaching out to your local FedEx, UPS Store, or other package carrier service for advice. The experts have an arsenal of packing materials and methods at their disposal, so they can likely give you some direction to ensure your product makes it to the customer unscathed.

6. Utilize live support.

Live support presence on an ecom store is extremely important. It can be used as a last resort for users who are unable to find the information they need or to just get some human guidance from the get-go to help find what they need more quickly and easily. 

Customers who seek live support to find the ideal product is less likely to return their order because engaging with a human creates trust and instills more confidence about making a purchase. 

7. Analyze your returns and exchanges data. 

It’s crucial for ecom store owners to get in the habit of digging into their returns and exchanges analytics so they can understand the most common reasons for products being returned and fix any issues that are costing them valuable money and resources.

This can be done by gathering all the information (including images) that accompany their order returns and compiling them in a spreadsheet along with common return reasons and frequency of occurrence. This should help point you in the right direction so you can make any necessary changes to reduce your store’s return rate.

For example, let’s say you’re seeing a lot of returns for broken mugs. You could analyze the customers’ submitted images to identify if the mugs are breaking in a similar way each time. Do all of them have a broken handle or are they getting cracked in the same spot? If so, you may need to beef up your packaging to protect your mugs better during shipment. 

Wrap-up

Finding the root cause(s) of your online store’s order returns is vital to your business’s bottom line. Implementing the steps outlined in this article and regularly reviewing your store’s returns data will help you address any issues and minimize returns and exchanges … which means happier customers and more money (staying) in your pocket! 

Resources

Retail Dive. 2022. The Right Fit: How AI is Changing eCommerce Apparel Returns. [online] Available at: <https://www.retaildive.com/library/rakuten-whitepaper-the-right-fit/>

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About the author

Irene Wanja

Irene, a skilled Revenue Optimization Specialist for Build Grow Scale, combines an unparalleled focus on user research and a deep understanding of the ecommerce customer journey to orchestrate optimal shopping experiences. With an uncanny knack for detecting and addressing customer pain points through meticulous user testing, she utilizes tools such as moderated user tests, heatmaps, scrollmaps, and clickmaps to fast-track improvements in user experience and usability. Her keen eye for detail aids in swiftly spotting potential issues and implementing solutions, all while working closely with store owners and applying her intricate comprehension of user interactions. Passionate about software and technology, Irene immerses herself in enhancing her clients' business clarity, efficiency, and user satisfaction. Even though the value of user experience doesn't conform to a conventional numerical scale, the tangible outcomes of her work—improved user experience, amplified retention rates, and reduced customer support issues—are testaments to her prowess. Beyond her revenue optimization skills, Irene is a skilled writer and copywriter. She weaves her profound insights into engaging prose, crafting content that not only resonates with diverse audiences but also demystifies the complexities of user experience, consequently benefitting businesses worldwide.

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