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6 Helpful Tactics to Help You Reduce eCommerce Return Rates

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What You Need to Know

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Thanks to easy-to-use eCommerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce, the daily operations of an online business like listing and selling have become fairly easy. The challenge lies in investing enough time and resources into growing your business and moving it forward. 

The success or failure of an eCommerce business often comes down to the return rate, because the cost of returns is often higher than merchants initially expect. Think of it this way: Let’s say you’re investing significantly in marketing resources to boost website traffic and sales. If a high percentage of your customers end up returning the items they purchased, that investment was mostly in vain. 

So why do customers end up returning items they purchased online? Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • The product doesn't fit correctly or isn't true to the product description
  • The wrong item was shipped
  • The product was damaged or defective 
  • The shipping takes too long and the consumer no longer needed the product
  • Wardrobing (when shoppers buy many products at once only to return most or all of them)

If you want to learn more about how to prevent customers from wanting to return items they bought from you, read on! 

#1. Take care to ship out the correct item

6 Helpful Tactics to Help You Reduce eCommerce Return Rates

It sounds a little obvious, but a significant percentage of returns are actually due to the customer having received incorrect or incomplete merchandise. If you're still using spreadsheets or even notepads to manage order picking, it’s time to upgrade. In addition to the built-in systems most eCommerce platforms now offer, many integrated apps also provide a more convenient management dashboard to help you keep track of every sale and its shipment status. Transitioning to one of these digital management methods should be part of the process of establishing a complete, organized procedure for receiving and confirming orders, picking items, packaging and shipping them, etc. Once you implement a more organized workflow, you’ll be able to significantly reduce the frequency with which you send out the wrong item, thereby reducing the number of customers who will need to request a return.

#2. List products with accurate visuals and descriptions

Unlike at a brick-and-mortar store, online shoppers have to “imagine” the actual product before they buy and receive it. That’s what product photos and descriptions are for, to help them understand as much about the product as possible so they can make a purchase decision. However, more than 20% of product returns still come from received products that do not meet the customer’s expectations. The core problem here is that many sellers still aren’t providing clear, detailed, or accurate enough product descriptions and photos in their online stores. 

eCommerce merchants need to ensure that each item has a complete photo gallery, including four or more images of different angles, close-ups that show detail, and maybe even images that show the item being worn or used. These pictures should also be presented in high resolution so that consumers can clearly see all the details. And if you can provide them, product videos are even better. They don’t have to be high-end productions, either; simply showing a 360-degree presentation would give consumers a more complete picture of what the product is like. 

Finally, make sure the text of your product descriptions is detailed and accurate as well. List the dimensions and weight of the product, and share the material(s) it’s made of, too. Don’t forget to update this information whenever it changes.

#3. Offer outstanding, real-time customer service

Many eCommerce merchants have never considered the link between great customer service and reducing return rates. But it happens all too often that customers return a product because they don’t know how to properly use/wear it. A friendly, readily-available customer service rep can help these customers find satisfaction with the product they received. 

Phone and email used to be the only channels available for this type of customer service. But over the past few years, plenty of new options have appeared. Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, and live chat windows on eCommerce websites are just a few options merchants can now make use of. All of these are convenient for customers to access, and allow them to receive fast answers to their queries. Plus, they allow for the exchange of photos and videos so your agents can see what’s going on and send helpful graphic resources. Customers who get quick help through channels like these will be less likely to return the product in question.

#4. Invest in quality packaging and shipping

Occasional damage is unavoidable in the shipping process. But if it happens often or has a specific pattern, there’s likely an issue you need to address. First, make sure you’re choosing packing materials that will protect your products even if the box they’re shipped in sustains damage. Consider using bubble wrap, strong, well-fitting boxes, and tape that’s extra adhesive to ensure that the items inside won’t be damaged even if the box is dropped or jostled in transit. Thoughtful packaging also shows customers that you take your products and their satisfaction seriously, which helps build trust.

Second, choose a reliable shipping service that will treat your packages with care. You want a carrier who will respect the items and do their best to deliver them safely and on time. Finally, you can also recommend that your customers take photos or videos when they open their packages to avoid any disputes about potential damage later on. This tactic is especially important for items that are both expensive and fragile.

#5. Track customer data

Data can be an extremely valuable resource when it comes to reducing your return rates. Tracking consumer behavior can help you fix issues that frequently lead to returns. Plus, it can help you identify and potentially block customers who are “wardrobing,” or buying large quantities of goods and then returning most or all of them. Keep track of the reason for each return, and how many returns were submitted due to each different issue. That way, you’ll know exactly where the problems lie and can make improvements accordingly. For example, if you notice that most people are returning their items because the size was incorrect, you can add additional sizing information and charts to help them choose better. 

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#6. Encourage customers to leave reviews 

Getting more reviews of your products can help reduce return rates, too. First, customers can add helpful details and even photos of your products in their reviews. These can help other shoppers better understand if the item might be right for them. Plus, even if the reviews are negative, they can help you understand where your marketing needs to be improved, how you could clarify item details on product pages, etc.

You should make it easy for consumers to leave reviews. You can display the option on the purchase page of your website, or send survey questions via email or text if you have the shopper’s permission to contact them that way. You could also offer incentives like coupons or discounts to encourage more customers to leave reviews. 

6 Helpful Tactics to Help You Reduce eCommerce Return Rates

Reduce return rates to boost your business

Whether you're setting up an eCommerce site through Shopify or WooCommerce, or listing your products on another online shopping portal, you should take the impact of high return rates seriously. If not, you’ll end up losing more money than you bring in, and finding long-term success for your business will be almost impossible. Use the tips in this article to reduce returns, increase sales, and grow your business!

What is Shypyard?

Shypyard is building a unified data platform that generates insights for rapidly scaling e-commerce merchants to help them avoid growing pains.

Our platform connects quickly to all common e-commerce data sources, normalizing the raw data into our proprietary data model. This allows us to deeply understand how each area of the store, from marketing to operations to finance affect the merchant overall.

We offer two main value propositions for the merchant: a quick, centralized view of their business plus growth recommendations that consider their business holistically. As Shypyard becomes more sophisticated, this foundational data layer is a springboard for additional AI e-commerce tools in the form of alerts, automations, etc.

Shypyard is designed to be easy to get started and hard to outgrow. Merchants get value immediately from our high level dashboards, and the more they use Shypyard, the better recommendations they receive.

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