More sales equal more returns – it’s a natural consequence of a busy Christmas season. But returns don’t have to be bad news for your eCommerce store. Find out why (and how) in this week’s blog on eCommerce returns best practice.

Online returns are expected to increase by 27.3% over the next five years, costing retailers £5.6 billion in the process. And that’s only a pinch of the inconvenience that returns cost your business. 

The negative impact of returns

When asking our sellers about the main hassles of customer returns, the problems topping the list included:

The loss of a sale

First and foremost, a return means that you’ve lost a sale that you’d spent time and effort on securing. 

Unhappy customers

In some cases, a product return also means an unhappy customer, and this could result in customer loss and negative reviews. 


And then we have the costs associated with a return. These can include the cost of shipping and returning items, as well as the costs of writing off or discounting the returned stock. 


Last, but not least, time. Returns involve emailing, processing, receiving, updating accounts, re-selling the product (if possible) and an additional metric to report on. 

But is it all bad?

The positive impact of returns

While returns certainly aren’t the eCommerce dream, there are positives to be had. These include:


Not everyone returns items for a full refund. By allowing customers to exchange items, you can retain the relationship and even upsell in the process. 

Customer service

Returns provide you with an extended opportunity to demonstrate outstanding customer service that could encourage repeat purchases and positive reviews. 

In-store experience

Buying certain products online, such as clothing, can be difficult because you don’t have the product to feel or try on. By allowing customers to create that in-store changing room experience at home, you can easily overcome this problem.  

Brand image

Consumer expectations are changing, and by changing with them, you present yourself as a customer-centric brand that people want to shop online with.

How do you take advantage of these positives while avoiding the negatives? Best practice, of course.

eCommerce returns best practice

We’ve narrowed down the top seven eCommerce returns best practices for delighting your customers, reducing your return rates and keeping everyone happy. 

1. Improve your listings

First, it’s important to reduce the need to return products, and this starts with your listings. Visuals, descriptions and customer reviews all influence your customer’s expectations of a product and, when done badly, can result in a not-as-described item arriving. 

Avoid this by using the following:

? High-resolution images of your products, including 360 views where possible. 

? Product videos that show the product in use or being worn. 

? Informative descriptions that detail product features. 

? Honest customer reviews, questions and answers. 

? Helpful information such as measurements, fit and use. 

By being as helpful and honest as you can in your listings, your products are more likely to meet customer expectations when they arrive. 

2. Segment your customers

Next, it’s good practice to avoid triggering returns as much as possible. By this, we mean not selling or marketing a product to someone that’s likely to return it. 

By using data to segment your audience according to their return habits, you can market the right products to the right customers accordingly and decrease the chance of returns.  For example:

? For a customer who always keeps trousers but returns 50% of tops, you might want to target them with discounts on trousers but not t-shirts. 

? For a customer who has returned two pairs of blue shorts because they didn’t like the colour, you might want to exclude them from your sky blue shorts discount event. 

? For a customer who buys two different sizes of the same item, but always keeps one, you’ll likely want to keep them in your new shirt marketing campaign. 

3. Adopt a generous policy

It might seem counter-intuitive to adopt a generous returns policy when you’re trying to reduce returns, but hear us out. 

A limited return window creates a sense of urgency. This places pressure on customers to make a snap decision about a product they’ve yet to unwrap or get to know. Often, this encourages customers to return an item through fear of missing out on a refund, rather than not actually wanting the product. 

A generous return window does the opposite. It gives the customer time to open the product, play with it and develop an attachment to it. Often, this leads to the customer wanting to keep the product they’ve formed a bond with, or, in some cases, forgetting to return the item at all. 

In addition, a generous returns policy is great for brand image, customer relations and customer retention. 

4. Gather feedback

Gathering data about product returns is also crucial for decreasing return rates. By asking customers for their return reasons, you can quickly pinpoint any problems and identify serial returners. 

For example, your sky blue shorts could actually look a little green, which is why customers are returning them. But you won’t know this unless you ask. 

Ensure that all returns are accompanied by an online or paper returns form that asks customers for the reason they’re returning the item and any feedback. 

5. Make it easy to send returns

A long and drawn out returns process is frustrating and can put customers off of buying from you again, or even lead to negative reviews. These days, customers are used to hassle-free and cost-free returns, that come with multiple drop off locations and fast refunds. 

Make your returns process seamless, enjoyable to use and easy to find on your website – especially your Christmas return dates. 

6. Make it easy to handle returns

And that ease isn’t restricted to your customers. When a return arrives at your warehouse, you need to log the return, amend your stock levels, relist the product and update Xero. 

Make life easy for yourself by using Expandly to log, restock and relist the product quickly, while you add a credit note in Xero and get on with your day. 


Returns are a necessary evil of online retail, but with these best practices, you can turn the nightmare of returns into a dream of repeat customers, profits and ease. 


About Expandly

Expandly multi-channel management software can help you from listing an item right through to processing a return. To find out more, book onto a free demo. 


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