Five Reasons for Returns and How to Address Them

Richard Ball
Jan 11, 2024
5 min read

When it comes to customers returning products, have you ever stopped to consider why? With a staggering 30% of all online purchases getting returned, it's crucial for any business in the eCommerce sphere to understand the reasons behind these returns. After all, businesses exist to satisfy customer needs, and any returned item signifies an unmet need or expectation.Whether your business deals with tangible products or offers services, you will inevitably encounter customers returning items. There could be a myriad of reasons for these returns, each one telling a story about your business operation, product quality, or customer service. So, understanding why customers return items helps you identify areas of improvement, leading to fewer returns and higher customer satisfaction.In this article, we dive into the top reasons for customer returns and provide actionable strategies to address them. From dealing with incorrect or damaged products to navigating changes in customer needs or preferences, we cover it all. We also shed light on the types of returns, most common reasons, and fraudulent returns to give you a comprehensive understanding of the return landscape.

Reasons for returns

Ready to improve your return rates and increase customer satisfaction? Let's uncover the hidden truths behind product returns.

Incorrect or Damaged Products

One of the most common reasons for product returns is receiving an incorrect or damaged item. Imagine the disappointment of a customer who opens their package only to find the wrong product, the wrong size, or a damaged item. Not only does this create a poor customer experience, but it also increases return rates and negatively impacts your business's reputation.So, what causes these issues? Mistakes in the order fulfillment process frequently lead to these issues. This could be due to a simple mistake in picking and packing, a mislabeling issue, or even a supplier sending the wrong item. Damaged products, on the other hand, are usually the result of poor packaging or rough handling during shipping.Preventing these issues should be a top priority for every eCommerce business. Implementing stringent quality control measures in your order fulfillment process can significantly reduce the incidence of incorrect items. This could include double-checking each order before it's shipped, using barcodes or RFID tags to track items, and training staff to handle products carefully.As for damaged products, consider investing in quality packaging material. Bubble wrap, foam inserts, and sturdy boxes can go a long way in protecting your products. Additionally, working with reliable shipping partners who carefully handle packages is extremely important.However, no matter how diligent you are, you can still see instances where customers receive incorrect or damaged items. In such cases, having a straightforward return process is crucial. Customers should be able to report the issue easily, send back the item, and receive the correct product or a refund promptly. Remember, how you handle these situations can make or break your relationship with the customer.Dealing with incorrect or damaged products can be a challenge, but with the right strategies, you can turn these hurdles into opportunities for improvement. By addressing the root causes and handling returns efficiently, you can reduce return rates, increase customer satisfaction, and boost your business's bottom line.

Reasons for returns - Incorrect or damaged product

Dissatisfied with Product

Product dissatisfaction is another major driver of returns in eCommerce. It occurs when the product fails to meet the customer's expectations, leading to disappointment and a subsequent return. Let's delve into the common causes of product dissatisfaction and how you can address them to reduce your return rates.

Unmet Expectations

Products not meeting their expectations are one of the primary reasons customers return them. This could be due to misleading product descriptions, inaccurate product images, or a lack of critical product information. For instance, a customer might order a shirt expecting it to be a certain color, but when it arrives, the color is off. This disparity between the customer's expectations and the actual product leads to dissatisfaction and, ultimately, a return.

Product Quality

Another factor contributing to product dissatisfaction is poor product quality. If a customer receives a product that is of lower quality than they expected, they are likely to return it. This could be due to a manufacturer's defect, poor craftsmanship, or the use of substandard materials. For instance, a customer might return a pair of shoes if they start falling apart after just a few wears.

How to Reduce Product Dissatisfaction

Reducing product dissatisfaction begins with providing accurate and detailed product descriptions. Ensure that your product pages include high-quality images from multiple angles, comprehensive product specifications, and accurate descriptions of the product's features and benefits. This helps set the right expectations and gives customers a clear idea of what they purchase.Investing in product quality is another crucial step in reducing dissatisfaction. By ensuring that your products are well-made and durable, you can significantly decrease the likelihood of returns due to quality issues. This might mean working closely with your suppliers to enforce strict quality control measures or even switching to a higher-quality manufacturer.

Handling Returns Due to Dissatisfaction

Despite your best efforts, there will always be instances where customers are dissatisfied with their purchases. In these cases, having a straightforward and hassle-free return process is crucial. Customers should be able to initiate a return easily, send back the product, and receive a refund or replacement promptly. This not only minimizes the inconvenience for the customer but also helps maintain their trust in your brand.Remember, each return is an opportunity to learn and improve. By understanding the reasons behind product dissatisfaction, you can make the necessary changes to your products, product information, and return process to reduce return rates and increase customer satisfaction.

Shipping or Delivery Issues

Another prevalent reason for product returns in eCommerce is issues related to shipping or delivery. These issues can range from late delivery and incorrect delivery addresses to products damaged during transit. Let's take a closer look at these issues and how to address them.

Late Delivery

Customers today expect quick and timely delivery of their orders. When a package arrives later than expected, it can lead to frustration and disappointment, prompting the customer to return the item. Late delivery can result from logistical errors, courier delays, or unexpected events like severe weather. To minimize late deliveries, ensure you work with reliable shipping partners who can guarantee timely delivery. Additionally, providing customers with accurate and upfront delivery timelines can help manage their expectations and reduce the likelihood of returns due to late delivery.[optin-monster-inline slug="uslger3nuqsjh1dxdgii"]

Incorrect Delivery Address

Deliveries sent to the wrong address can also lead to product returns. This usually happens when the customer provides an incorrect address, or there's an error in the order fulfillment process. To avoid this, encourage customers to double-check their shipping details during checkout. Implementing address verification software can also help reduce errors and ensure packages reach the correct destination.

Shipping or delivery issue

Products Damaged During Transit

Products that get damaged during shipping are a common cause of returns. While this issue is somewhat similar to receiving damaged products, the cause here is specifically related to the shipping process. The use of inadequate packaging materials or rough handling by the courier can result in product damage. To prevent this, invest in high-quality, sturdy packaging that can protect your products during transit. It's also crucial to partner with reputable shipping companies that handle packages carefully.


Bracketing is a shopping behavior where customers order multiple versions of a product with the intention of returning the ones they don't want. This practice is common with items like clothing and shoes, where customers order different sizes or colors to try on at home. While bracketing can increase sales, it also leads to a higher return rate. To address this, provide detailed product information and accurate size charts to help customers make the right choice the first time around. Offering virtual try-on features or customer reviews can also reduce the need for bracketing.Shipping and delivery issues can significantly impact your return rates and customer satisfaction. However, by understanding these issues and implementing effective strategies, you can improve your delivery process, reduce returns, and enhance the overall customer experience.

Customer Error

Customer error is another significant factor contributing to product returns in eCommerce. These errors can arise from various sources, such as incorrect input of personal details, misunderstanding of product information, or mistakes in selecting product options. Understanding the common causes of customer error can help you implement strategies to reduce these instances, ultimately leading to a decrease in return rates.

Misinterpretation of Product Information

One common cause of customer error is the misinterpretation of product information. Customers may misunderstand the product description, specifications, or size charts, leading to purchasing unsuitable items. For instance, a customer might select the wrong size of a clothing item due to confusion over size conversions. To minimize such errors, it's essential to provide clear, detailed, and accurate product information. Incorporating visual aids, such as size charts or instructional videos, can also help customers understand the product better and make the right choice.

Incorrect Input of Personal Details

Another frequent error made by customers is the incorrect input of personal details, particularly shipping addresses and credit card information. These mistakes can lead to failed transactions, wrong deliveries, and, ultimately, product returns. To mitigate this issue, consider implementing form validation in your checkout process. This technology can alert customers to errors or inconsistencies in their input, allowing them to correct the mistakes before completing their purchase.

Errors in Selecting Product Options

Customers may also make errors in selecting product options, such as color, size, or model. These mistakes often lead to dissatisfaction with the received product and subsequent returns. To reduce these errors, ensure your product options are clearly and accurately represented on your website. Consider using high-quality images for each option and providing detailed descriptions to help customers make informed decisions.While customer errors are inevitable in eCommerce, understanding their common causes and implementing effective strategies can significantly reduce their occurrence. By making your website user-friendly and providing comprehensive product information, you can help customers make accurate purchases, reducing return rates and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Changes in Customer Needs or Preferences

Changes in customer needs or preferences are another significant factor driving product returns in eCommerce. This often occurs when a customer's circumstances or tastes change between the time of purchase and the product's arrival. For instance, a customer might order a trendy piece of clothing, but by the time it arrives, their style preferences have shifted, leading to a return. This can also occur when a customer's needs change due to external factors, such as a sudden change in weather or a shift in lifestyle.

Anticipating Changes in Customer Needs or Preferences

While it's impossible to predict every change in a customer's needs or preferences, businesses can take steps to anticipate and adapt to these changes. One strategy is to stay abreast of current trends and customer behavior patterns. This can help businesses better align with customer preferences as they can adjust their offerings and marketing strategies accordingly. Another strategy is to maintain regular communication with customers. This can provide valuable insights into their changing needs and preferences, allowing businesses to address potential issues before they lead to returns proactively.

Size-Related Returns

Size-related returns are a common result of changes in customer needs or preferences. This typically happens when a customer orders the wrong product size, either due to a misunderstanding of the size chart or a change in their body size. To reduce size-related returns, businesses should provide detailed and accurate size charts on their product pages. They should also consider offering free-size exchanges to encourage customers to get the right size instead of returning the product outright.

Changes in customer's needs or preferences

Addressing Returns Due to Changes in Needs or Preferences

When a return is due to a change in customer needs or preferences, it's important for businesses to handle it efficiently and empathetically. This means making the return process as easy and hassle-free as possible and offering alternatives that might better suit the customer's updated preferences. By doing so, businesses can turn a potential negative experience into an opportunity to demonstrate excellent customer service, thereby fostering customer loyalty and reducing the likelihood of future returns.

Four Ways to Address Returns in eCommerce

Addressing returns effectively is not just about accepting returned items and issuing refunds. It's about turning a potentially negative experience into an opportunity to demonstrate excellent customer service, build customer loyalty, and gather insights for improvement. Here are four strategies that can help you achieve this:

Create a Clear Returns Policy

A clear and comprehensive returns policy serves as the foundation for handling returns in eCommerce. It sets the expectations for the customers, outlining what items can be returned, the timeframe for returns, and the process for initiating a return. A well-crafted returns policy can reduce confusion, prevent misuse, and improve customer satisfaction. Here are some key elements to include:

  • Return eligibility: Specify what items are eligible for return. This could be all items, only certain categories, or items within a certain condition.
  • Return timeframe: Define the timeframe within which returns can be made. This could be 30 days, 60 days, or any period that suits your business model.
  • Return process: Provide step-by-step instructions on how to initiate a return. This should include how to package the item, where to send it, and what information to include.

Streamline Returns Process

Efficiency is key when it comes to handling returns. A streamlined returns process not only reduces the workload for your team but also minimizes the inconvenience for the customer. Consider using a returns management platform like Rich Returns to automate and simplify the process. This can include generating return labels, tracking return status, and issuing refunds or store credits.

Offer Free or Low-Cost Returns

Cost is a major deterrent for customers when it comes to returning items. Offering free or low-cost returns can encourage customers to confidently make purchases, knowing they can return the item if it doesn't meet their expectations. While this may increase your return rates, it can also boost sales and customer satisfaction, resulting in a net positive impact on your bottom line.

Leverage Technology and Analytics

Technology and analytics can provide valuable insights into your return rates, reasons for returns, and customer behavior. This data can help you identify trends, pinpoint issues, and develop strategies to reduce returns. For instance, if you notice a high rate of returns due to size issues, you might consider improving your size charts or offering virtual try-on features. By leveraging technology and analytics, you can turn returns into a powerful tool for improvement and growth.

Wrapping It Up

In the ever-evolving world of eCommerce, understanding the reasons behind product returns and effectively addressing them can make a significant difference to your bottom line. By focusing on reducing errors, improving product quality, streamlining your returns process, and staying in tune with your customers' changing needs, you can turn returns into opportunities for growth and customer loyalty. Learn more about how Rich Commerce can help you tackle these challenges and transform your returns process today.

Richard Ball
February 2, 2024
9 min read