20 Statistics on Ecommerce Returns You Need to Know in 2021

Returns are an expected part of an ecommerce ecosystem but managed poorly they can become a plague for an online retailer. Returns don’t have to be a thorn in your side, though. Ensuring that your returns process is quick and hassle-free will guarantee that customers will be more likely to make an additional purchase after their return, padding your businesses bottom-line.

Knowing the facts on returns, why ecommerce shipping software is vital to online retailer success and what customers expect will give you the edge with ecommerce returns.

Here are 20 statistics on ecommerce returns that you need to know this year.

1: Online consumers spent $861 billion in 2020, an increase of 44% since 2019

Online shopping has quickly become the preferred form of shopping for consumers. The convenience of being able to shop from home or anywhere from a mobile device, save time and have needed items delivered is extremely appealing to shoppers. Shoppers expect online retailer service to be as exceptional, if not better than brick and mortar stores. Add the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and customers wanting to avoid being in public as much as possible and it has created a bubble in which online sales has exploded exponentially. With massive growth comes an increase in returns.

2: The overall return rate in 2020 was 6%

The average return rate across all retail categories was 10.6% in 2020 according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Top Return Categories for 2020

  • Auto Parts (19.4%)
  • Apparel (12.2%)
  • Home Improvement (11.5%)
  • Housewares (11.5%)

3: US ecommerce sales will increase 7% in 2021 to reach $908.73 billion 

Ecommerce sales have surged in recent years. According to Insider Intelligence, their prediction for 2021 is more of the same. US ecommerce sales are expected to increase by 13.7%

 4: An estimated $428 billion in retail merchandise was returned in 2020

The number of returns climbs higher every year and the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported $428 billion in total merchandise returned in 2020. One can only assume that the number will be higher in 2021.

5. Between 15% and 40% of purchases are returned

New studies find that 15% to 40% of purchases are returned, with returns doubling over the past 3 years alone. Returns cannot be eliminated, but they can be reduced with creative strategies. With advancements such as AI assisted – augmented reality changing rooms returns can be efficiently reduced.

6: 73% of shoppers say their overall return experience will affect the likelihood of purchasing from a retailer again

The quality of your overall returns experience is crucial to shopper retention. Retaining customers is far cheaper than attempting to find others. A positive customer service experience will contribute to a healthy customer base.

7: Shoppers will not purchase from a retailer again after a bad returns experience 84% of the time

According to Klarna, 84% of customers will not purchase from a retailer again after a bad return experience. This statistic reinforces the need for a good ecommerce shipping software that will assist in making your returns process simple and streamlined.

8: If the returns process is easy, 92% of customers say they will make another purchase

As stated before, making sure that the returns process is enjoyable will ensure customers are more likely to complete an additional purchase after their return. When shoppers know they can get their money back as easily as they spend it, it empowers them to follow through with their purchase.

9: Convenient drop-off locations were the reason 46% of returners labeled a return as easy

Shoppers desire convenience. It’s the primary reason they choose to shop online, but when it comes to returns the ability to return a purchased item to a store or other drop-off location is typically more convenient. Immediate exchanges and refunds make returns a breeze, saving the customer time and your business money. Ecommerce shipping software assists with the implementation of drop-offs by working with multiple shipping providers, streamlining your returns process.

10: Customers look at the return policy before making a purchase 60% of the time

Most consumers take their purchases seriously and tend to make informed decisions before committing to buying an item or service. A well worded, easy to understand, easy to find and simple return policy will help shoppers feel more confident in making a purchase from your online store.

11: 79% of consumers say they will not make a purchase from an online store that charges for returns

Customers expect not to have to pay for returns, but if you must, make it clear to the shopper that they are responsible for any shipping or return fees. Surprise fees are one of the quickest ways to lose customers.

12: When asked what would prevent them from making a purchase in the first place, 51% said having to pay for return shipping

Another example that shoppers expect not to pay for returns and do not put a monetary value on shipping. Working with multiple shipping providers and taking advantage of discounts will help your business offer free returns.

13: 49% of retailers offer free returns

With 49% of retailers providing free returns, it’s likely that your competitor is offering free returns to customers. Taking advantage of an ecommerce shipping software solution that can assist in finding free or reduced return costs from shipping providers will keep your business relevant and give you a fighting chance in the online retail ring.

14: The average return represents 30% of the purchase price

On average, a return represents 30% of the purchase price of an item. This means that a retailer needs to sell more units to cover the cost of a return. High-quality photos, well-written product descriptions and highlighting key features will cut down on returns and increase profitability.

15: Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 40%  of retailers say they have adjusted their return policies

Sweeping changes have been made during the pandemic in the realm of ecommerce and logistics to keep up with customer demand. Reanalyzing your businesses return policy so that it’s more congruent for the current ecommerce climate is a necessity.

16: 88% of surveyed consumers say they make a return at least “occasionally”

Returns happen. Sometimes despite doing everything right a customer still chooses to return an item. Reaffirming the necessity of a hassle-free return policy, 88% of consumers say they make a return at least “occasionally.” Keeping the return process quick and simple will retain these customers.

17: 71% of online shoppers aged 18+ said they would journey to a physical store to return an online purchase to reduce their carbon footprint

As people begin to realize their impact on the environment, customers are willing to make concessions to limit their carbon footprint on the planet. This not only helps reduce pollution, but also speeds up the return process, cuts down on shipping waste and saves your business money.

18: Refunds are expected within five days of return of merchandise for 72% of customers

Consumers shop online for speed and convenience. They expect their refund from a return to be just as quick and convenient, A streamlined return process that customers can initiate themselves will enable them to receive their money back quickly, satisfying their expectations.

19: Customers are 88% less likely to shop with a retailer that takes too long to issue a refund

Refunds should be prompt and simple. According to Digital Commerce 360, 88% of customers say they would not shop with a retailer that takes too long to issue a refund. This makes the shopper feel like their money is being held hostage and less confident to make additional purchases

20: During the holiday shopping season returns can jump as high as 30%

Returns can surge by 30% during the holiday shopping season. In a recent article, ecommerce giant Amazon predicted that the explosive growth in online sales and the subsequent costs of fulfillment and hiring of more laborers could wipe out holiday profits entirely.* Avoiding losses on the return front requires you as an ecommerce retailer to be proactive in crafting a return policy that not only is quick and easy, but also enjoyable for the customer so they make that vital secondary purchase.

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