6 Ways to Manage Product Returns Effectively

customers expect the returns process to be painless

  • Written by Matt Holman
  • Published on July 13, 2020
  • Time to read 9 minutes

As frustrating as returns can be, managing them is an inevitable part of an e-commerce business. 30% of online products are returned, compared to only 8% for brick-and-mortar stores.

While dealing with customer returns might not be fun. However, it’s still possible to manage and minimize them effectively. Sometimes, you can flip them around and turn them into a sale.

While you may hate them, customers expect the returns process to be painless.

In this blog post, we’ll cover six ways that stores can manage returns effectively and improve their business:

Make Your Returns Policy Easy to Access and Lenient

More than 60% of customers will read your return policy before purchasing. That’s why you want to ensure your return policy is clear and easy to find on your web store.

The best places we recommend to make your returns policy visible include:

  • Your website’s footer
  • Your header
  • Each of your product pages
  • Checkout & cart page

Another good tactic is to be generous and extend the deadline for returns. This works because it gives customers peace of mind and ample time to see if the item fits.

For example, Zappos is a top-leading brand that offers returns within 365 days of purchase. With so much time to test out the product and return it, customers may even forget to return the item in the first place!

Collect Data on Customer Returns Through Surveys

One of the best ways to prevent returns is to understand why customers are returning your items in the first place. One way to collect this information is through customer surveys.

With surveys, customers will have to go through a series of questions so you can understand the reason behind their return. Some of the best questions you can ask in the survey include:

  • How did you find our product?
  • What features are you looking for that our product lacks?
  • What questions came to mind during your buying process?
  • Did you compare our items to the competition?
  • What can we do to improve our item to fit your needs?

As Bill Gates said himself, “An unhappy customer is the best customer.” Once you understand why customers are returning their orders, you can improve your products and web store.

For example, if a specific item always comes back faulty, you can find ways to fix it. Maybe it’s a flaw in the design, or the item’s packaging isn’t strong enough to sustain the transportation to the customer.

Maybe there’s a line in the product detail that is misleading customers. Understanding their expectations allows you to communicate more effectively in the first place or improve what you’re delivering.

If customers complain that your product looks bigger on your website than in real life, you can focus on improving your images to reflect the actual size of the item.

One of the best ways to prevent returns is to understand why customers are returning your items in the first place

Offer Product Recommendations to Customers

Even if a customer decides to return your item, it doesn’t mean that they won’t ever buy from you again. It could just be that they’re looking for a different product to meet their needs instead.

Especially for clothing or fashion-related items, customers want to see how they look and fit in person. If the returns process is easy, then they will continue to try out different products until they find what they like. Then you’ve got a lifetime customer!

What you can do in this situation is to offer them suggestions for other products that might interest them. If they’ve bought from you before, you can look at their history and see which type of item they typically like.

To take it a step further, you can also offer them redeemable coupons they can use on future purchases. It’s a great tactic to get them to return to your store and eventually buy products from you.

Measure How Much Your Returns Are Costing Your Store

As you manage returns, you must take the time to measure how they’re affecting your revenue. Doing so will help you set up a strategy to minimize them and do better.

Here are some crucial questions you need to be asking yourself:

  • How much money are you losing because of returns?
  • How much is your return rate compared to industry averages?
  • If you also have a retail store, do you have more returns online or in-store?
  • How are returns affecting your warehouse, inventory, and transportation costs?

Make the Return Process Simple and Convenient

How your brand manages returns could make or break your customer relationship. 92% of buyers will shop at your store again if the returns process is fast and straightforward.

For example, you can add a prepaid return label on packages to make the process less frustrating for the customer. You can also give customers a tracking number that lets them know when you receive the item.

Another way to make the returns process worry-free for the customer is to make your order policy straight to the point. Avoid complicated terms, disclose return fees, and set clear expectations between you and the customer.

There are tools you can use that simplify managing returns, which we’ll get into below.

Manage Your Returns With a Shipping Tool

Managing returns isn’t an easy task. Plus, you likely have other priorities in mind for your business, such as marketing your product or optimizing your website. It doesn’t hurt to get a bit of help along the way.

To save you time, various return management tools make the job easier for you. Some of the best tools we recommend on Shopify include:

  • AfterShip Returns Center: The platform uses automation to manage and process your refunds from one dashboard. Customers will be able to return their items online within minutes.
  • ReturnMagic: Acquired by Shopify in 2018, ReturnLogic makes it simple to create an RMA and print shipping labels. It includes over 50 carriers worldwide.
  • Returnly: With Returnly, customers can send back your products by generating their own return shipping labels. Some of its users include Everlane and Outdoor Voices.


Returns are part of shopping online. Making it easy will create a more positive customer experience and boost your retention of new customers. Managing them can be a headache, but setting clear policies and effective back-end processes will make them painless. With the right strategy, you can make returns just another selling point for your business!

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