How to reduce product returns

Checklist for fewer product returns

A good returns process increases repeat customers. However, you'll need a well-set-up system to not let product returns become a burden for your e-commerce business.

According to research, 57% of retailers report that handling returns has a negative impact on their day-to-day operations. 20% report that they’ve had to increase the price of their merchandise to compensate for the cost of consumer returns.   
 
If the cost of returns is eating away on your profit margins, it might be time to check if you can reduce your returns rate by improving your webshop and reducing your logistical costs. Ask yourself if you’re ticking all the right boxes with the help of the BACK framework: 
  • Better user experience 
  • Access to reliable logistics providers 
  • Combined shipments and returns 
  • Key insights into reasons for return 

Better user experience 

The first question to ask yourself if your business has a high returns rate, is: how can I improve my webshop’s user experience? Check if your webshop has: 
  • Clear images and/or video 

On average, 22% of consumers return items because the product they received looks different to what they expected. The good news is that this reason for return is easily reduced by providing high-quality images or even product videos on your webshop.  
 
In order to show colours and textures are clearly as possible, it’s best to get professional product images or videos shot in a proper studio with the right lighting. Make sure to show your products from all different angles and take close-ups of the key details. This will give consumers a realistic sense of what the product will look like when it arrives.  
  • Accurate product descriptions 

Ideally, your product descriptions should be written by a professional writer who knows your audience, your products and your brand’s tone of voice. The product description is what most of your web visitors read first, so make sure it starts with an appealing headline, then highlights the most attractive features first. Bullet points can help provide a quick and easy overview of your products, but you can also choose to use them in the product specifications only. 
  • Detailed product specifications 

On top of your product description, you’ll want to list the exact specifications of your product. Depending on the nature of your product portfolio, this can include size, weight, material, colour, or more technical details such as speed, functionality, ports, resolution and more.  
  • Size guides and fitting tools 

Whether you’re in the business of clothing, shoes or furniture - for some e-commerce products, size really matters. As standard sizes may vary per region and even per brand, it’s wise to help potential customers find the size that’s right for them. Fitting guides and size guides can help consumers find the product that fits them – or their space – perfectly, removing yet another reason for return.  
  • Easy ways to get answers to a question 

Sometimes, consumers will have questions that you haven’t answered on your product pages yet. In order to avoid them having to return a product because something was unclear, it’s wise to provide an easy opportunity to get in touch with someone who might be able to answer their question – whether that’s a chat bot, a customer service professional or even a fellow shopper on a forum. 

Access to reliable logistics providers 

Sometimes, the reason why consumers return a product has nothing to do with the quality of your webshop. Instead, the problem might lie with your logistics providers. In order to reduce product returns, make sure the service providers you work with: 
  • Pick and pack accurately 

23% of consumers return products because they received the wrong item. That means that your business could reduce its returns by almost a quarter by ensuring that warehouse staff picks and packs products correctly! Invest in picking and packing training or find a reputable service provider who can look after this part of your logistics chain.  
  • Deliver on time 

Consumers might not have use for a product anymore if it arrives too late. An important date might have passed or they might have gotten discouraged. In order to avoid this happening, your business should work with reliable carriers who have a proven track record of shipping according to schedule.  
 
In order to avoid having to hold dozens of contracts with individual carriers, you could also make use of a specialist shipping broker. Spring GDS, for example, allows your e-commerce business to access over 230 of the world’s most reliable carriers with one single integration. Download the app on your e-commerce platform or install the API on your website to start shipping straight away. 
  • Don’t damage the goods 

In approximately 20% of cases, consumer purchases are returned because they were damaged upon arrival. A common cause for this is poor product packaging, but damaged goods could also be the result of careless handling. If many products are returned to you damaged, it makes sense to look into who’s handling your merchandise – and if they could do better. 

Combined shipments and returns 

No matter how hard you try to improve your webshop and logistics, it’s close to impossible to run a business without a returns flow at all. The good news is that you can still cut costs even when products are being returned to your warehouse. 
  • Track shipments and returns, all in one place 

Your business can create a more efficient logistics flow by seeing, managing and tracking outbound and return shipments within one platform. An all-in-one shipment solution removes the need to invest in multiple shipment solutions while you keep complete control over your total logistics flow. The Spring GDS portal allows you to do just that. 
 
Learn more about our integrated parcel returns solution
  • Cut the cost of returns 

You may not be able to eliminate product returns completely, but you can ship them smarter with the help of Spring GDS. We deliver returned goods to your warehouse when we come to collect your outgoing shipments, resulting in fewer journeys, lower logistical costs and less CO2 emissions. It’s a climate- and cost-efficient way to handle returns.   
 
Learn more about other ways in which we offset our carbon emissions at Spring GDS. 

Key insights into reasons for return 

In the end, the key to reducing product returns is to understand why consumers returned items in the first place. Spring GDS offers a clever solution for gaining the insights you need to reduce consumer returns in the long run.  
  • Gain insights into reasons for returns 

As part of the Spring GDS returns solution, we can create an online consumer-facing returns portal that’s customised for your brand. When consumers create a return label through your business-branded portal, they can select their reason for returning each individual item. The insights gathered from this data can help you identify exactly where the problems lie within your e-commerce business and make more informed decisions on how to move forward. 
 
How to handle customer returns - Why
  • Learn from reviews 

On top of the quantitative data gathered from your consumer-facing returns portal, product reviews can give more qualitative insights into why consumers are pleased or displeased with your products. Monitor platforms like Yelp, TrustPilot, Google My Business and Facebook to see what consumers really think about your products and where you could improve.  

Make your returns process the key to success 

Handling returns may not be the best part of running an e-commerce business, but with the right systems in place, the process can be easy and cost-effective.  
 
Talk to our team about our integrated parcel returns solution that ensures: 
  • Better user experience 
  • Access to reliable logistics providers 
  • Combined shipments and returns 
  • Key insights into reasons for return 
Find out how we can help you handle returns in a way that makes your customers come back for more.  
 
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