5 ways to cut down on online returns


It's going to be no surprise to anyone that the online shopping scene is going to look very different this Christmas. With various restrictions still in place across the UK and shoppers feeling a little uneasy about heading out into the crowds, it's predicted that a third of Christmas spending will happen online this year as customers swap trips to the high street with frantic clicks between Zoom calls. 

But, with an increase in sales comes a rise in returns, and it can be a pricey business if it gets out of hand.

Did you know...

Online returns in the UK are predicted to increase by 27.3% in the next five years and hit a total of 5.6 billion pounds by 2023! - GlobalData 

Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast – with customers not being able to touch and feel the products in person, ecommerce and returns go hand-in-hand. Although you’ll never be able to cut out returns completely, there are lots of things you can do to keep them to a minimum.

1. Set up a customer-focused return policy

You may be asking why putting a good return policy can help cut down your returns, but hear us out with this one. Reviewing your returns policy and adopting one which benefits your customers may end up reducing your returns rate. For example, a liberal policy with a longer time frame to send back the items often means your customers end up forming an attachment with their items and are much less likely to send them back. Customer-focused returns policies are great for new business, too. A well-thought-out policy clearly displayed on your site could be the nudge your customers need to add that item to their cart or choose your business over a competitor.

2. Make sure your customers know what they’re getting

This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many retailers get this one wrong. To keep your returns to a minimum, you need to make it crystal clear to your customers what they’re spending their money on. This includes everything from writing detailed product descriptions crammed full of as much information as possible, to including accurate sizing, specs and dimensions.

Top tip:  It’s no surprise that clothing sizes vary from store to store, so if you’re a clothing retailer, make life easy for your customers by adding a size chart to your product pages. There are lots of products out there that can integrate to your site to make measurements and sizing as simple as possible, which means happy customers and fewer returns!

These days, customers are expecting more than just a good quality image when they’re shopping online, and only the clearest, highest quality pictures will do. More and more retailers are using videos to show off their products, as well as 360-degree views to make sure your customers can see their trainers, laptops or sofas from any angle before they’ve even got their hands on them.

3. Ask for customer feedback

There are so many reasons why asking for feedback on your products can help cut down on your returns.

Firstly, there’s the obvious one – getting a better idea of what your customers do and don’t like about your products so you can get to work on making them better. Perhaps your images aren’t showing the colours accurately, or your sizing runs a little low on a certain item – how will you ever know if you don’t reach out to your customers and ask? Collecting reviews can unlock a load of really helpful insight, so you can spot common trends and themes and learn more about your customers. Feefo’s Performance Profiling, for example, automatically analyses your review content to see what you’re getting right, and where you could improve, so you can put your efforts in the right places to keep those returns down.

Additionally, reviews can give potential customers the confidence they need to click on the ‘buy’ button, as well as steering them away from products that don’t fit the bill. From a star rating on product pages, an honest bit of feedback or a photo or video review bringing your products to life, unbiased opinions from real people can help direct your customers to the products that they love and are unlikely to return.

Did you know…

96% of people read or use reviews in some way - Feefo Consumer Report 2019 

4. Make decisions easier with tech

Thanks to some nifty tech, it’s getting easier than ever to give your customers a good idea of what they’re ordering when they're not able to make it into a store. From tools which use algorithms to recommend the best size, apps from brands like Sephora and Ikea which help you to visualise items either on you or in your house, to the ‘Sofasizer’ from Made which helps you pick the perfect sofa for your space, there are lots of solutions available which can help your customers feel more comfortable about their purchase and less likely to fill in that returns form.

Did you know…

41% of people regularly buy items in multiple sizes and variations with the intent to return the ones that aren’t quite right - that’s two out of five people planning to return an item before they’ve even paid for it! - Shopify 

5. Nail your delivery

With approximately 33% of UK households subscribing to Amazon Prime, shoppers have some pretty high expectations when it comes to delivery times, but Covid has made these expectations tricky to meet recently. Make sure your delivery times are clearly displayed on your website (especially if you're experiencing delays) before your customers hit the ‘confirm’ button to reduce items being returned because they turned up later than they expected.

You’ve spent all this time making sure that your customers know exactly what they’re getting and when, so don’t throw away your efforts when it comes to the packaging – there’s nothing more frustrating than excitedly opening your delivery to find the contents broken or damaged!

When your customers can't make it into your store,  giving your customers as much information as possible, including real feedback from real customers could be the key to less returns. For more quick marketing tips than can help improve your customer experience from search to checkout, check out our guide here!


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