Four Tips for Handling Online Returns

For fashion brands, the returns rate for online purchases can reach a staggering 30%.

With one in three orders coming back through the door, online retailers are working hard to reduce the rate of returns and find new ways to streamline the returns process. Gravit-e already has a built-in online returns module, but to maximize its effectiveness there are a number of strategies that retailers can use. 

1. Move the returns process online

Allowing customers to process a return online might seem like a counter-intuitive when return rates are already sky-rocketing. However, moving your returns process online can offer a significant return on investment in terms of reducing the processing overhead of handling returns and streamlining business processes.

For example, when using Gravit-e Returns, customers can be asked to supply a photo of the faulty product. If you are able to ascertain that the goods are faulty and beyond any hope of resale from this photo evidence, then you can process the refund or replacement of those goods immediately - saving time, reducing costs, and even doing a little to save the planet with one fewer package making its way from A to B.

2. Ensure product information, especially size guides, are accurate

One of the main reasons that customers return products online is that they don't live up to expectations. In particular, issues with size and fit are the most common reasons given for returns in the fashion sector. By providing clear, accurate, and comprehensive product information you can reduce the returns rate - saving your time and money and improving your service to the customer.

Of course, maintaining this information is an additional cost, so looking for ways to do this efficiently is key. For example, we implemented a special module to handle size guides so that a single size guide could be attached to multiple products and updated in a single location if and when changes arose to compensate for this. Ensuring your CMS has the capability to handle this sort of detailed product information is vital.

3. Make sure your online process offers exchanges and replacements, as well as refunds

Many online returns solutions default to offering the customer a refund. Whilst this may sometimes be the right option, a savvy retailer will do everything they can to keep the customer (and their money) with their business. Make sure that your online process can handle offering replacement products or an exchange to the same (or greater!) value as the original transaction. Although this is more complex to process, requiring a refund and resale, it can reduce the overall costs of returns to your business significantly.

4. Analyse your returns data to look for patterns

When we ran a one-off data analysis of returned products for a customer, we found a single product with a single fault that accounted for over 20% of all returns. One conversation with the supplier later, the issue was resolved and we had reduced the return rate significantly.

Although an increasing number of customers (almost 25% in some studies) admit to over-ordering online with the intent to return some or all of the goods, the majority of customers do not want the hassle of returning products - they ordered online for a reason! Proper analysis of returns data can provide a wealth of customer service information that would otherwise be lost. Smart retailers drop products with high return rates in favour of products that are more reliable - a win win for both the customer and the retailer.


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