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A few days ago I made a purchase online, I got myself a pair of jeans. The product image on the site showed a distinct fading pattern that I was pretty excited about. Imagine my surprise when I got the shipment delivered later and the fading pattern seemed entirely different. I ended up returning the product. That got me thinking and a little reading on the subject turned up some shocking information. Data from a Kurt Salmon study on around 50 retailers indicates that the average return rate on apparel purchases is around 20% to 30% and about 10% of hard goods like gifts, home products, and toys. Here are some ideas you can use to reduce the return rate on your store.

Ensure you have the right product information

Most product returns stem from the fact that the customer feels that what they’ve got delivered isn’t what they saw on the site or ordered in the first place. Ensuring you have the right product information for each item will help in reducing returns of this kind. Having the right product information takes on even greater importance for stores that sell niche products. Occasionally giving out extensive product information is sacrificed for more sleek and usable design. Try finding a balance between the two. Amazon does this quite well, they leave some essential information right on top of the page, the rest of the information is down at the bottom.

Photographs tell a shopper what to expect when they receive their shipment. For apparel, footwear and fashion stores selling the photographs have to convey not just what the product looks like but also what it might feel like(cloth texture). Including some super close up photographs of the product will help with this. Here’s an example.

If you sell anything that comes in different sizes, ensure you have the sizing charts displayed prominently. A canceled order is usually better than a return as you can save the cost of shipping. You can consider sending shoppers more information on their order once they complete a purchase, that way they will have no confusion about what they are going to receive. If they do change their mind they might do so in the brief window before you ship the merchandise.

Discourage change of mind returns

Customers can change their minds once they receive their shipment. Having a small restocking fee on non-defective items will discourage most of these “change of mind” returns. Set up a policy for change of mind returns with the lowest restocking fee for returns that are shipped back immediately and increase the restocking fee for returns that come in later.

Let customers know about changes in their orders

Orders can get mixed up, especially If you sell products that have subtle variations, for example, a cell phone with different cases. If this happens let shoppers know in advance the differences between what they ordered and what you have shipped out. What strategies do you employ to reduce returns? Let us know in the comments below.

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