Returns Don't Have to Suck


I have to assume that no one ever wants to make a return. Customers appreciate the option, especially when it's free, but besides the old buy two sizes trick, they don't buy a product with the plan to return it. Even when it is free, it requires effort. Effort we'd rather not have to take.

So... that's good news because I've yet to meet a merchant who loves returns. But unfortunately, they're inevitable.

There are two sides to analyzing returns: the impetus for the return and the return experience.

The impetus for the return

If you aren't collecting feedback from customers to understand why they're making a return, start doing that now. The only way to prevent returns is to know why customers aren't satisfied enough to keep your product.

To take it a step further, spend time every month getting on the phone (remember these?) with customers who made a return to understand their thought process and how you can make it right. I don't have a study to quote, but we all know how costly it is to acquire new customers while winning them back can generate more profit and turn them into brand advocates.

In your quest to understand customer returns, here are some thought starters to consider when reviewing your website. The goal is to ensure your website is doing everything possible to set expectations with the customer before they click Complete Checkout.

  • Does product imagery accurately showcase the product?
  • Can customers assess the item's physical size through product imagery, if relevant?
  • For clothing and accessories, is sizing guidance accurate and easy for customers to understand? Do you feel confident they can decide on size without trying on the item?
  • Are product descriptions detailed enough? What content might be missing?
  • Do product specifications provide details on materials, dimensions, and other relevant content that customers would look for if shopping in person?
  • Have you provided enough content from real customers? Can customers see reviews from people like them?
  • Are you showcasing user-generated content to help customers get a feel for the product in "real life"?
  • For products available in-store, is it clear to customers this is an option?
  • For brands with several similar products, is it straightforward for customers to compare features?
  • If you were a customer, what hesitations might you have before purchasing?

The return experience

If a customer chooses to return your product, it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Rather than making the situation worse for the customer by charging them to send the product back or requiring them to jump through hoops, invest in a seamless return experience. Remember, they don't want to return the product either!

When customers feel some sense of delight in an otherwise frustrating situation, you're already on the path to winning them back. Sure, sending them a free shipping label is nice of you, but it's a bit like receiving an unwrapped gift at Christmas—you don't feel the magic.

Instead, create an experience that allows customers to share what went wrong. Then, guide them to finding a solution, whether that's a discount on another purchase, a replacement item, or some other perk—it will leave them feeling satisfied (and you more whole). After all, a return for the customer probably means they'll have to continue shopping for a replacement with a similar brand. Again, more effort they don't want to take.

Getting started

  • Returns: We love Loop's focus on turning what's typically a loss center into a profit center through a thoughtfully designed return experience, including upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Imagine increasing AOV with a return?!
  • Try before you buy: For brands with products whose website will never do them justice (think: fragrances), TryNow is a turnkey option for rolling out a Try Before You Buy experience on your e-commerce store.
  • Reviews: Okendo is our go-to for reviews because they focus on making reviews as helpful as possible for the end customer. They make it simple for customers to review products while simultaneously collecting and displaying customer attributes that give context to future customers. This data can feed into Klaviyo (or other ESP) to create more personalized marketing, driving customers to the right products.


This post originally appeared in Edition No. 146 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

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