Why Customers Return Products on E-commerce Websites & How to Prevent it

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Product returns remain one of the major problems facing e-commerce websites. It can occur when the product received doesn’t meet the customer’s expectations, or when it has the wrong size.

Product returns remain one of the major problems that businesses of all kinds deal with all year round. They can be legit or fraudulent. Learn more about return fraud here.

Both online and offline businesses receive returns from their customers, but the rate of returns is usually higher in online stores because customers can’t see or touch the products physically before buying.

Returns can eat into your time, energy, and profits if you don’t do something to reduce your return rate.

For instance, when you receive returns from customers, you have to spend more time and energy processing the returned packages, issue refunds, and keep the whole experience positive for them to ensure that they come back for more purchases in the future

This article looks at some of the reasons why customers return products and the steps you can take to keep your e-commerce return rate low.

9 Common Causes of E-commerce Returns & Their Solutions

1. Wardrobing

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Wardrobing is a type of consumer fraud that involves purchasing an item like a designer suit or TV screen, using it for 1-2 days while keeping the tags on, and then returning it to the e-commerce website for a full refund.

It’s an unethical practice that many retailers are aware is happening, but there’s nothing much they can do to stop such consumers without punishing their honest customers.

Here are a few tactics to curb wardrobing:

Stand Your Ground

It’s usually pretty easy to tell when a returned product has been used by the customer. If you check closely, you can see that they have wrinkles, stains, and broken seals, among others.

If this is the case, you should refuse to accept the merchandise back. Let the customer know that you know the product has been used, so you can’t accept it. If they try to cause a scene, stay strong and stick to your decision.

State Clearly Which Products Qualify to Be Returned

Another way to discourage wardrobing is by making your return time frame shorter and stating the scenarios under which a customer can return a product.

Place Tags in Obvious Places

You can also protect your business from such fraudulent returns by placing tags, especially on clothing, in places where they can’t be concealed easily during wear.

2. The Product was Defective or Damaged on Arrival

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This is another common cause of product returns on e-commerce websites. Sometimes, you can ship out a product in excellent condition, but due to shipping accidents, it can reach the customer in one thousand pieces.

The moisture level and temperature of your warehouse can also cause products to be defective by the time they’re reaching their destinations.

Here are a few ways to deal with this issue:

  • Invest in shipping insurance to help minimize losses.
  • Partner only with shipping companies that have a good reputation.
  • Package all your merchandise properly and carefully before shipping them to the customers.
  • Double-check each item’s quality before shipping.

3. The Items Arrived Too Late

Late delivery can also cause customers to return products. For instance, if someone orders a dress for a special event and the product takes too long to arrive until they’re forced to get a replacement from a different store, they’re most likely to return it.

Such a customer deserves a free gift (i.e. free shipping on the item they’ll order next) from your store as a way of apologizing to them and easing their frustration.

Besides this, you should provide all your customers with real-time shipping information to help them know the exact time frame their order will arrive.

You can also reduce such returns by ensuring that you process each customer’s order quickly so they can be shipped on time.

4. The Customer Received the Wrong Product from the Merchant

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It’s also possible for a merchant to ship out a product that’s totally different from what the customer order. Such errors can occur at any point during packing and shipping.

Some customers who receive the wrong products will contact you immediately to initiate a return.

But, there are others who will resort to chargebacks to get their money back. This second scenario will cost your business more than just money, so avoid it if possible.

One of the ways you can prevent this issue from happening is by double-checking each order to ensure that they’re the right one before shipping.

Secondly, you should state clearly in your return policy what will happen when a customer receives a wrong product from the merchant. This can help greatly to reassure an agitated buyer and make them less likely to file for a chargeback.

5. The Customer No Longer Needs the Product

This scenario can occur when a customer orders something like a phone charger, but before the charger is delivered, the phone is either stolen or it gets damaged. This can force them to return the charger because it’s no longer needed.

Such a situation can be handled by suggesting to the customer to exchange the product for something else that has a slightly (10-20% higher) higher price than they paid originally. This is a great offer that many customers will not refuse.

In addition, you should also provide customers with detailed information about the products you have in your store, so they can see the value they’ll get by purchasing and keeping the products.

6. The Customer Changed Their Minds After Receiving the Product

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Customers can also change their minds after receiving a product they ordered. Maybe they were excited at the time of purchase, but once they saw it face-to-face, the excitement died down.

In such a case, you can suggest that they exchange the product with something else that they find exciting at that moment.

Also, ensure that your product images are clear and high-quality, and the accompanying descriptions are accurate to avoid misleading the customer.

7. The Customer Purchased the Wrong Product

Online shopping isn’t always easy to get right because customers rely fully on the images and information provided to make a buying decision.

Many people have bought different products online only to realize that the size is either too big or too small for them. This forces them to return them and ask for a refund.

But, before it gets to this point, you should ensure that every product on your e-commerce website is accompanied by clear photos from different angles, as well as a detailed and accurate product description to help your customers buy the right products for them.

8. Criminal Fraud

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This type of return is carried out by thieves and fraudsters who buy products with either stolen debit or credit cards, or counterfeit money and then return them for cash.

To reduce such cases, it’s recommended that you:

  • Invest in a good point of sale (POS) system.
  • Charge restocking fees
  • Encourage in-store product returns

9. The Product Didn’t Meet the Customer’s Expectations

Lastly, a customer can also return a product if it falls below their expectations. For instance, if the product isn’t working the way they expected, they’ll feel like they’re not getting enough value for their money and return it.

This problem can also be minimized by providing detailed and accurate product information.