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For today’s consumers, returns are just a part of the online shopping process. Maybe that’s why around one in three online orders were returned in 2022.1

But the good news for retailers is that 92% of customers will buy again if the returns experience was easy.2 By understanding why shoppers return items, you’ll know how to prevent more returns in future – and how to offer a great customer experience that keeps them coming back for more.

What makes a great returns experience?

According to a recent report by Signifyd, UK shoppers want free returns (including no additional charges such as restocking fees); immediate refunds; for the returns label to be provided; and a long returns window.3

Though many retailers are understandably concerned about high return rates, the key is to maintain return-friendly policies for legitimate and loyal customers, and to share these prominently on your website.

Why do shoppers return, and what can you do?

It didn’t fit: For clothing, an accurate sizing guide on your website can help limit these returns. Some fashion retailers are now even using online sizing technology, and 96% of shoppers would purchase clothing if they could be confident that the sizing tech was accurate.1

The product was damaged: Damages are a top reason for returns, but in many instances, this can be prevented with more robust packaging, the correct labelling of fragile parcels, and by using a logistics partner that handles your goods with care. If you’re seeing a higher rate of damages in transit than expected, it may be time to re-evaluate your carrier.

The product didn’t match the description: Keeping your website descriptions up to date and accurate is critical to preventing these returns. You’ll also want to ensure your photography reflects the real colour of the item, particularly for products like clothing and homeware.



Item arrived late: To prevent the item no longer being needed, like a gift arriving too late for a birthday or Christmas, make sure your delivery partner can fulfil orders in the timeframe you’ve listed on your website. But again, make sure your website is accurate – particularly around peak times!

“Bracketing”: This is when consumers buy multiple versions of the same item in different sizes or colours to see what fits best or which one they prefer, and then return the rest. Some retailers try to prevent this by charging for returns, but it’s important to consider this choice carefully, as it can backfire. 52% of UK online shoppers are not willing to pay for returning clothing that did not fit correctly.1 And 56% of UK customers overall are hesitant to do business with brands that charge for returns. (For those looking to sell overseas, this rises to a whopping 77% of shoppers in European countries like France and Italy!)4

An unwanted gift: Unfortunately, there isn’t much retailers can do to prevent these returns, particularly after Christmas! But you can ensure it’s easy for the returner to do so, meaning that both the ‘gifter’ and ‘giftee’ are more likely to shop with you again.

Taking advantage of the returns system: Alongside all the legitimate reasons for returning, it’s estimated that 7.5% of online returns are fraudulent.4 The most common scheme involves an item of clothing being worn and then returned with the tags still on; but others include ‘weight-gaming’ – where consumers send back boxes with the same weight but less valuable contents. Some retailers are now using machine-learning models that determine the identity and intent behind each return, allowing them to control their response depending on the potential risk, helping to reduce fraudulent returns.

How can retailers restock and resell faster?

In addition to speedy returns, retailers can also look at their warehousing and logistics. Around 34.5% of a warehouse’s time is dedicated to operations that don’t directly bring in any revenue,4 so even if only 15% of all orders are returned, if the restocking takes as much work as sending out, the time involved can be significant. Warehouse automation can help speed this process up – meaning you can restock, resell and refund faster – and free up warehouse staff to do other things.

While not every return can be prevented, there are still strategies retailers can implement to minimise returns and offer that seamless experience that keeps customers coming back to buy time and time again.


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