Best Practices for Reducing Returns

4 min read
January 27, 2023

Best Practices for Reducing Returns

Managing returns can be a headache for any brand or retailer— from receiving to, processing, and then figuring out how to sustainably handle them can be huge obstacles. Moreover, if customers are continually returning products, they may turn to competitor brands instead, eroding the bottom line and tarnishing a retailer’s or brand’s name in the industry. Though investing in good returns management is integral for any operations, why not try nipping the problem in the bud by ensuring that returns across the board are lessened? Here are some best practices to reduce returns: 

Make Sure Size and Fit are Clear

As shoppers, we’ve all been there. We order a pair of pants or even a bedspread, sure that it will fit well on our body or in our home only to discover that the dimensions are completely different from what you were led to believe on the website. The way to solve this is by including fitting tools with all your listings. These tools can range from 3D modeling and digital showrooms, which can show how furniture will look in a room with specified dimensions, to a size chart that engages customers to clarify fit (e.g.. voting on whether a product fits as expected.)  

Another idea is implementing a slider on the product image itself, making clear how it fits most shoppers (does it run small, large, or fit as expected?). 

With better sizing explanations, retailers can create a more seamless and stress-free shopping experience for customers, while also heavily reducing size-related returns. Fewer customers will have to buy two of the same product only to return one because it is the wrong size or become disappointed with incorrect sizing in general. 

Invest in Good Packaging

Broken items almost always equal returns.  In fact, 80% of consumers have returned an online order that arrived damaged. That’s why ensuring that packaging is top-notch is crucial to mitigating returns and lost customers. If a retailer sells fragile items, it will be important to make sure that the proper packaging materials, such as bubble wrap and well-lined boxes, are used by their 3PL partner or their own shopping department. There are even sustainable packaging brands that create biodegradable packaging, ensuring that protecting your products isn’t hurting the environment. 

Additionally, brands should always clearly mark the outside of parcels with what is packaged inside, so that end consumers know how to manage the box when it hits their doorstep. When working with a 3PL partner, it will be important that they are able to offer custom labels for shipping notifications as well. And if you’re noticing more returns due to damage than normal? Then you may need to switch up your courier or shipping platform to find one that ensures your products are safe. 

Ensure Product Images are Accurate

The goal is to exude accuracy in product images and descriptions, to lessen the reason for returns. Brands and retailers should go through their entire product catalog and review all photos, across channels, and consider having multiple images of each product at varying angles. To streamline this process, we suggest investing in software such as a digital shelf.

Moreover, it’s important to be explicit about the dimensions of products in the description and continually update information as needed. Do you sell a more complicated product that needs explicit instructions? Consider creating a short video accompanying product descriptions explaining how to put items together. Without accurate product descriptions and images, customers may feel like they’re getting bamboozled or are receiving misinformation and will return a product. 

Utilize Customer Reviews

93% of consumers say that reviews affect their buying decisions, so investing in a robust review and rewards program is integral to minimizing returns. Consider implementing a process that rewards customers for leaving a review, like 15% off their next purchase. Reviews can also help retail businesses by providing trust between consumers and organizations, while also giving businesses credibility. Additionally, almost 80% of customers feel cared about by a brand or retailer if the business responds to reviews. If shoppers flag a specific problem over and over again, brands will know to fix that issue for next season in hopes of reducing returns. 

Optimize with an Order Management System

Supply chain technology is another way to ensure minimal returns. Good order management can help streamline processes that allow brands and retailers to focus more on the business. Find software that optimizes easy setup and integration of product files, gives product alerts across categories, and helps increase data accuracy across all channels by providing first article inspection. Another key factor to look for is a technology that provides predictive analytics to consolidate data management and determine how much safety stock is required, so there is never an underestimation or overestimation of product launches on any channel. This kind of predictive data can give sellers a better understanding of what products move quickly and when, which can help organize manufacturing to align with these peaks. This information can, in turn, reduce returns.  

Another key factor is providing a frictionless, personalized shopping journey independent of the shopping environments or channels consumers are using. This unified experience allows brands to offer convenience to customers regarding when, where, and how they want to shop, while simultaneously procuring significant data at each touchpoint. Therefore, investing in a unified commerce platform is integral to offering a seamless shopping experience to customers, which in turn reduces returns and keeps the back end of your business agile and dynamic. 

In today’s e-commerce landscape returns are a normal part of running a retail or brand business. But too many returns can lead to unsustainable business practices, erosion of your bottom line, and generally poor business optics. Knowing how to minimize returns is the best way moving forward to secure a healthy brand or retail organization and a durable supply chain. Have any other suggestions, let us know!

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