14 Facts About Ecommerce Product Returns All Retailers Should Know

Don't miss out on future sales, loyal customers that rave about you and long-term retention. Here's how you streamline Shopify returns to your advantage.

Last year’s ecommerce sales tallies were impressive and set new records for this industry. Over the holidays, more than $80 billion in transactions occurred, with around $10 billion of those sales taking place over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekends. All told, ecommerce experienced explosive growth to the tune of 20% year over year.

But with these healthy purchasing rates, it’s wise to not ignore the newest facts about ecommerce product returns that all retailers should be aware of. Here are 14 statistics to help you better position your online store for success.

1. Bad Returns Mean Fewer Sales

If you’ve ever bought something online and had to return it, only to find out that it’s very difficult to return it, how likely are you going to be to make a purchase from that online retailer again? According to recent statistics, there’s an 80% chance you won’t buy from that retailer again. And guess what, if you’re selling online, that means when you make returns hard, you kill retention rates by the same percentage.

2. Most Shoppers Read Your Return Policy

What your return policy says is critical to closing more sales. In numerous reports we’ve published, one number has stood out and has remained virtually unchanged for more than five years: 66% of prospective customers take the time to read your return policy before making a buying decision. If you make it hard to return in your policy, or if its confusingly worded, they’ll just take their business elsewhere.

3. Most Returns Are Your Fault

This doesn’t come down to a finger pointing game. Ongoing studies agree that most of the time the return is the fault of the retailer. This is especially seen with electronics and apparel. The most common reasons for return are: 22% apparel didn’t fit; 22% item arrived damaged or broken; 22% items was substantially different than advertised online.

4. 80% of Consumers Want Free Return Shipping

Most consumers want free return shipping. Companies that lead the charge in this area are LL Bean, Amazon and others, which set the industry standard for hassle-free returns. A quick look at the financial successes of these ecommerce powerhouses is conclusive to the fact that free return shipping doesn’t result in net losses and instead turns up the profit dial for any ecommerce store.

5. Most Retailers Charge a Return Shipping Fee

As the above fact about ecommerce product returns deduces, the vast majority of consumers want free return shipping to be offered on purchases. But there’s a catch, just 11% of retailers currently offer free return shipping on ecommerce purchases. When free return shipping is offered, certainly, consumers will be more likely to return, but they will also be a lot more likely to purchase, too.

6. Apparel Has the Highest Rate of Returns

If you’ve ever wondered what ecommerce purchases get returned the most, the answer is: apparel. It’s got the highest aggregate return rate, estimated at between 40-50%, as compared to electronics, which peak at about 20%.

7. Cyber Monday Returns Set New Records in 2018

Cyber Monday has quickly evolved into the most popular online shopping holiday of the entire year, as consumers gear up to check off items from their shopping lists. Naturally, with this type of massive influx in purchases, there’s bound to be returns. But how many? According to UPS, last year resulted in 1.4 million Cyber Monday product returns being processed in a single day.

8. New Year’s Day Sees Millions of Returns

The highest return volume in ecommerce occurs on New Year’s Day or the first Friday thereafter. Major shipping carriers report that during this time, at least 2 million returns are processed in a single day, with around 7 to 10 million being processed in the week that follows, due namely to buyer’s remorse.

9. Shoppers Want No-Questions-Asked Returns

Numerous surveys and studies have been conducted over the years polling consumers about the most ideal return policy type. The response has been overwhelmingly in favor of a no-questions-asked return policy that spans at least 30 days from date of purchase. The most recent polls found that 58% of consumers want this type of policy in place from the stores they buy from online.

10. Return Shipping Fees Anger Consumers

The same aforementioned polls find a connect between shipping fees as well as the wording and restrictions of the return policy. 63% of shoppers are discontent with paying any type of return shipping fee and 53% think that it should be easier to process a return from an online retailer.

11. When Returns Are Easy, Shoppers Buy More

Putting to bed the notion that hassle-free returns result in net losses, a study that was conducted by Science Daily which followed several large online retailers over six months and through millions of transactions concluded that profits soar when returns are easy. But by how much? Some retailers reported a whopping 300% increase in overall sales by simply making their return policy hassle-free with no return shipping fees.

12. Loyal Customers Return More Often

Want customers to keep coming back to your online store? Well your most loyal customers are also the ones who will buy and return more than any other customer type. A report on returns by Zappos concludes that their return rate hovers around 50% and most of that comes from their power shoppers, who may buy and return more but who also pad the bottom line and feed the most profits to this retailer throughout the year.

13. Reconversion Rate of 64% With Easy Returns

Another fact about ecommerce returns you can’t ignore is this: the reconversion value of the online shopper. When you make it easy to return at your online store, this means the shopper is coming back to process the return, and they’ll also be advertised new products from your store simultaneously. According to a UPS study, this creates a powerful 64% chance that they will make a new purchase after processing a return.

14. Shoppers Want 30-45 Days to Return

Flexibility is the key with your online product returns policy. Retailers that are the most flexible enjoy a steady stream of purchases that far outweigh the returns they get. The most recent statistics on ecommerce product returns find that customers want 30-45 days to return a purchase.

Need even more tips? Use this infographic we’ve created to revamp your return policy and get more sales.

Want more high-powered sales? Then make sure you're aware of these 14 critical facts about ecommerce product returns you can use to succeed.

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