Returns Best Practices for E-Commerce Brands

Aaron Clements | Oct. 23, 2020, 11:04 p.m.

Creating a great returns strategy and implementing the building blocks to manage it are crucial to running an online focused business. Most brands view returns as an afterthought, a sort of necessary evil they have to deal with.

But this is a mistake because returns are a new reality.

Brands who incorporate a solid returns strategy into their business will increase their odds of growing sales, period


In practice this means:

  1. Make them easy for your customers. Set it and forget it.
  2. Focus on increasing loyalty and new sales via repurchases.

It's important to tackle returns in two parts so you can turn the headache into opportunity. They are "pre" and "post".

"Pre" is everything you're doing before and during the sale and "post" is everything you're doing after the sale.

The majority of brands don't put enough emphasis on the "pre" process, if they even think of it at all.

Every brand should first be focused on minimizing returns


Here are the best practices for your "pre" strategy.

  1. Size charts - Use relevant and accurate size charts.
  2. Model dims - E.g. This model is 5'8" and is wearing a Large.
  3. Multiple models/same product - Use 2-3 different shaped people in alt images of your product detail page.
  4. Complimentary brand "fit" - What brands have a similar fit to your product? E.g. If you wear this brand you'll love our fit.
  5. Place your policy everywhere. Digital and hard copy.
  6. Great product photography - Get all the angles and get the colors right to what it actually looks like in person.
  7. Production consistency - If your product fit varies greatly across your production runs then you need to fix this. Size consistency is important.
  8. Educate your customer through your brand content and overall storytelling. In other words make sure the content you're producing has people wearing or using your actual production, not samples that may fit differently.
  9. Technical products? - Video, every photo angle possible and all the specs you can list.
  10. Reviews - This takes some time but the more people you can get to review your product, fit and use, the better.
  11. Promo for reviews - Engage your customer to give reviews and fit or use feedback in exchange for enter to win stuff, discounts or other.

Since returns are going to happen and hopefully at a smaller volume because you've put in the up front work for the "pre" process, you need a great "post" process.

Here are the best practices for your "post" strategy.

  1. Use a returns app to facilitate self service returns.
  2. Enable exchanges and/or store credits so the customer doesn't have to email you for another product they want instead of the one they're sending back.
  3. Issue refunds asap, even pre-inspection so you get money back in your customers hands more quickly.
  4. Be liberal with extending returns days allowed if a customer is just a few days out. Let them know you'll make an exception just for them.
  5. Do not, and I mean do not haggle with a customer over sending back an item you can't sell as 1st quality. There are exceptions of course for high ticket items and electronics but for fashion products it's unwise to argue with a customer.
  6. Don't make a customer send you photos of defective item as part of the return requirement. Sales is about trust.
No questions asked is the ideal policy. Make up for it in loyalty and repeat sales


A note on points 5-6. The more you trust your customer and adhere to a no questions asked policy the better off you'll be. The reality is if you're a pain to deal with for a return they'll just go find a brand that's not a pain and you'll lose future sales.

We're here to help so feel free to ask us any questions and good luck on getting your best practice returns strategy in place!

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