How to Reduce the Number of Returns for Online Stores?

Returns in online stores are not unusual. In Europe, even before the pandemic, their number was growing. According to the PostNord report “E-commerce in Europe”, about 36% of online shoppers declared to do so after shopping. 

Returns are beneficial for the customer, but it is not necessarily the case for the seller. It causes some complications and increases the costs of running an online store. In many countries, they cannot be avoided, but you can reduce them.

Such situations are the bane of sellers – they take a lot of time, generate costs, require keeping records, checking the goods, and returning the money. So it’s understandable that they frustrate entrepreneurs. The problem is obvious. As a store owner, you focus on expanding your offer, investing in advertising, and yet the product returns. What does it comes from?

How much time does the customer have to return the product?

Returning goods in most countries is a consumer right guaranteed by law. Depending on the state, customers can return a product within 7-21 days after purchase. In the United States, a store may formulate its return policy, but if it does not, state law will govern it.

The return policy should be a part of the regulations of the online store. Unfortunately, some sellers want to save money on a lawyer and decide to copy the terms from other online stores. 

Sooner or later it will turn against them because it may have negative consequences: from penalties for copyright infringement to mismatching content because of different industries or legal systems, as well as outdated information.

Knowing the reason of product return

To limit the number of returns, you need to know the reason. Maybe the size is different than the standard one? Does the description suggest something else? Or the photo does not match the color or texture of the material? 

With this knowledge, you can correct the description and avoid future returns. Sometimes the reason is not the quality of the goods themselves, but the inconsistency with the intended use, photos, or description. You can eliminate such a mistake in a few hours.

How to find out the reason why the client returns the product?

Of course, by asking the customer, preferably in the return form. So make sure you have the right question templates ready. Remember to tailor it to your industry and company.

One method of determining the reason for a return is to add this information to the product review. If it was caused by, for example, an overestimated size, it is a valuable remark for the next buyer who decides to choose a smaller one. Based on this information, modify the product description. 

Do not be afraid that authentic opinions will negatively affect sales – it is a form of communication with the customer that builds brand credibility. Collecting reviews also affects the reception of the entire website and increases visibility in the Google browser and the sale itself.

Extending the time for returning goods

The global trend is to create more and more customer-friendly services. Therefore, an increasingly common solution in online stores is to extend the standard time for returning goods than national regulations require.

The idea seems surprising because the client has more time to change his mind. However, it is a good practice, the sense of which is confirmed by one of the theories of behavioral economics, the so-called possession effect. Most of us do not tolerate loss. Losing something hurts more than gaining the same. We can apply this principle to purchases. The longer a customer has the product, the more he is attached to it and will not want to lose it.

In addition, it is worth remembering that the return is not only a problem for the seller. The customer also has to put a lot of effort into it – pack, order, or deliver the package to the courier. There must be an actual reason for someone to do so.

On the other hand, extending the deadline for returning goods brings tangible benefits. It effectively encourages customers to choose your shop. It is confirmed by research: according to the report “E-commerce in Poland 2021. Gemius for e-Commerce”, 32% of internet users say so.

Appropriate presentation of products

The most important task for the online store is to sell the product. It can use various tools and techniques; the most important are photos and the product description. Nobody likes to be cheated, though. So, photos and descriptions must present the product in a way that the customer does not feel disappointed after receiving it.


Customers buy with their eyes, so an attractive product presentation is crucial. However, it cannot be less than the truth. A slight color correction or the removal of little imperfections in the photos is acceptable, but far-reaching modifications will result in the goods being received with disappointment. Users are hypersensitive to changes in the area of ​​color and texture of the material.


It is critical for clothing and footwear stores. If you sell clothes, add a size chart and instructions for measuring yourself on your website. If you sell abroad, match the size to the table with units valid in other countries.


When creating a description, there is always a temptation to characterize the product as the best on the market. After all, the description is supposed to sell, and the customer wants to buy the best products. However, try to provide relevant information to accurately outline the product’s appearance and functions. 

The more details you provide, the more accurate the description becomes. The customer will know what to expect from the product, and you will avoid a return. The slogan “best” does not always go hand in hand with the “fit for the user”.

What about a free return in an online store?

There are two models for returns: the cost of the return is paid by the customer or the seller. You should provide customers with the option of choosing a convenient form of returning the package, so even if you sign a contract with a specific courier company, you should leave the customer the option of shipping at his own cost.

Large trading platforms have made consumers accustomed to a convenient return of goods. Consider this possibility to remain competitive. If you run an honest, customer-focused business, you don’t need to worry about implementing efficient returns handling. It pays off as it increases cart value and conversion, improves store credibility, and helps keep customers loyal. The customer often decides to replace the goods with another one instead of returning them.

Customers start to treat online shopping as if they were visiting a normal shop. Many customers treat online shopping like trying the product in a fitting room. They want to be able to return if the product does not match the description or photos. On the other hand, you can justify paid returns by being environmentally friendly.


The phenomenon of returns of goods certainly cannot be eliminated, but it is worth taking steps to reduce them. It is crucial to define the return conditions in the regulations, but also to educate customers. You must discover the reasons why they return your products. The too-small or too-large shirt is not proof of a low-quality product, but its incorrect size information.

Give the customer a chance to become attached to the purchased product by extending the time for sending it back. The fact that the customer once returned the goods does not mean that they will not buy from you in the future. Especially if they had no problem returning it. A well-planned return policy in the online store builds a positive relationship with the user and helps in increasing sales.

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