10 tips to reduce returns for your webshop in 2023

10 tips to reduce returns for your webshop in 2023
Jonas van de Poel
Jonas van de Poel
Content Writer
Posted on
January 16, 2023
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Less cost, less effort, more revenue: it pays pretty well to give reducing returns some attention. Especially when you realize that about one-fifth of online purchases are returned.

But how do you start reducing returns for your webshop? Before we give you 10 tips to (significantly) reduce your online returns, we briefly explain what a normal return rate is and what to look out for.

How many returns is normal for web shops?

With the sharp increase in online sales in recent years, online stores have faced a major challenge: the rise in returns.

According to data from e-commerce platform Shopify, about 20% of all online purchases are returned, compared to only 9% of physical purchases. During the end-of-year season, online return rates even rise to 30%. So if your online store's return rate is around 20%, that's normal. 

Of course, the fact that one-fifth of online purchases are returned does have a big impact on your business. However, there is still quite some difference between the return rates of different types of products. You can also take this into account when analyzing your return statistics.

So which products are returned the most?

There are many different types of products that are often returned after purchasing online. In general, however, clothing and shoes are one of the most frequently returned product groups. This is often because the sizes do not fit properly, or the product looks different than expected. Electronics and household items are also frequently returned products.

Looking at the average e-commerce return rate statistics by industry, we see the following: 

  • Clothing: 30%
  • Shoes: 12%
  • Electronics and household goods: 8%
  • Bags & accessories: 6%
  • Books, movies & video games: 5%
  • Cosmetics: 5%

Clothing and shoes are thus returned significantly more often than other products. Does your shop sell these types of products? Then your return rates will generally be higher.

Can you also prevent returns completely?

The short answer: no, returns of online products cannot be completely prevented. No matter how good your product descriptions and size charts are, consumers will always return products.

However, it is important that you, in order to build a healthy e-commerce business, try to reduce the number of returns as much as possible. 

The most important change you can make to your returns process is to proactively offer exchanges. This will help you retain sales that would otherwise be lost while keeping your customers happy. 

10 tips for reducing returns in your webshop

Here are our 10 tips to significantly reduce returns in your webshop. Let us know if you are going to implement these tips and if they have resulted in a successful reduction of returns.

1. Ask (satisfied) customers to share pictures and reviews

Do you offer customers the possibility to share reviews and pictures after purchasing a product? If you don’t, it’s important to start as soon as possible. Receiving these kinds of reviews provide you with 2 huge advantages:

  • Buyers get an even clearer picture of your product. Thanks to reviews, potential customers know immediately whether the product matches your photos and whether others will order a size smaller or larger. This results in better-informed purchases and therefore fewer returns.

  • Another advantage: Positive reviews make people more likely to make a purchase. That chanceeven increases by 270% (!) when you show 5 or more reviews. All the more reason to invest your time and effort in this as soon as possible.
Increase the likelihood of a purchase by showing 5+ reviews

2. Use feedback

Are the reviews flooding in, but also the returns? Then you can use these reviews as a tool to reduce those online e-commerce returns. 

Reviews are not only a great way to inform new buyers, they also provide you with a wealth of information. Therefore, always ask your customers for the reason behind their return.

Do multiple buyers mention that a smaller size would have fitted better?
Are you told that the colour does not match your images? With the information provided by this feedback, you can reduce your returns in no time.

3. Analyse data

You can learn from every return. But how do you find out where there is room for improvement and what concrete actions you need to take? The answer is simple: you use the data that returns provide.

For example, which products are returned most often and which products receive the most feedback? Using a data-driven process is the fastest way to gain valuable insights to reduce your online returns.

4. Don't be stingy with your product descriptions

If you have an induction hob at home, you won’t buy a new frying pan without knowing whether or not it’s suitable for induction. If you need a new summer jacket, you will want to know if it has a small or large fit.

The point we’re trying to make is that customers want to know where they stand when buying products online. By being generous with your product descriptions, you’ll make it easier for your customers to choose and you’ll reduce the number of returns.

Keep the following in mind when providing information on your product pages:

  • Provide information on the fit
  • Show common questions
  • Use social proof (but you already knew that, because you read point 1)
  • Don’t use long-winded text; keep things clear with paragraphs and listings
  • Optimize your texts for search engines
  • Think from the customer's point of view: what does he/she want to know?

5. Check your delivery time

Do you communicate a fixed delivery time during the purchasing process, but can you not always live up to it? It may well be that the decision to return has already been made before your product has been delivered.

In most cases, people are prepared to wait a little longer for your product, as long as the competition does not deliver any faster and you stick to the agreed delivery time. 

If you don’t live up to the promised delivery time, there’s a chance that the buyer has already ordered the product from the competition while waiting. So check whether something is wrong with your shipping policy and, above all, compare it with the competition.

6. Be mobile-friendly

Those who still gear their e-commerce to desktop orderers are 3-0 behind. The number of purchases via mobile websites is still rising sharply: In 2022, the number of mobile purchases will probably increase with a staggering 22%.

Therefore it’s important to take a critical look at your mobile website. Check if the same information is equally accessible than on the website, that you offer the same contact option as on the desktop version and all pictures and product texts are omtimised for mobile use.

If one of above mentioned things is not in order yet, there’s still a lot to be gained in terms of the number of (mobile) returns.

7. Be customer-friendly

This may seem obvious, but there is often still a lot to gain for e-commerce companies here. For example, make sure you are easily accessible: by proactively offering a chat or other contact options during the purchase process, you can easily reduce the number of returns. Your customers will then make a better informed choice.

Is the product sent back anyway? Then make that process flawless. You can do that, for example, by sending customers real-time status updates of their return. This increases the quality of your service and reduces the pressure on your customer service.

By offering top-notch service, also during the returns process, you will be distinguishing yourself as a company. This prevents a return from being a final goodbye.

8. Check your product photos

There is little more disappointing than receiving a parcel, tearing open the packaging and... seeing a product that does not meet your expectations at all. The biggest culprit: bad pictures.  

Unlike in a physical shop, online shoppers cannot look at the product for themselves. This does not have to be a problem, as long as you use high resolution images, highlight product details and showcase the product from different angles. 

An even better option is to use 360-degree pictures or short product videos. By doing this, potential buyers are not only more inclined to buy the product, there’s also less chance of disappointment (and therefore a return).

9. Work on your returns policy

Copied a returns policy from the Internet, pasted it on your website and then never looked at it again? Then you’re missing out, because with agood returns policy you distinguish yourself from competitors and your customers are more likely to proceed to an exchange.

On top of that: as many as 67% of people look at the returns policy before they decide to buy. Therefore, with a half-baked returns policy you are only hurting yourself. So make it easy to return products and consider, for example, free returns and a 30-day return period instead of 14 days.

10. Go from return to exchange

Admittedly, this will probably not reduce the number of packages coming back your way. But by offering an exchange based on your live stock, you are preserving turnover that would have been lost unnecessarily and you are preserving a (satisfied) customer.

Fewer returns in no time?

You can do this with Returnista's returns software. It allows you to stimulate exchanges without any effort, to get valuable data from your returns and to stay ahead of your competition with an unprecedented service. Want to know more? Request a demo on our website.

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