16 July 2020

Tackling the Issue of Serial Returners

Serial returning can be a major drain on your profit margins. So, it’s important to understand why this happens and what can be done to reduce how often it occurs. Doing so will help your business to retain the value of original sales and make your returns process less costly.

Stack of blue jeans on chair

Source: Karolina Grabowska, www.pexels.com


Multiple returns from the same consumer is often a result of flexible returns policies. As well as the rise of the try-before-you-buy culture that has emerged through e-commerce. Although these policies are customer-friendly and often very positive for your customers’ experience, high volumes of returns are a cost-drainer. It is therefore valuable to know how to optimize your returns process from start-to-finish, in order to reduce your overall returns or ensure that unwanted items can be re-directed in order to retain their value.   

Read on to discover the three kinds of serial returners your brand will most likely recognize. By understanding their shopping behaviors, you’ll be better equipped to adapt your returns solution to reduce returns volumes while maintaining customer satisfaction levels.  


The Use-It and Return-It Shopper 

Safe in the knowledge that they can return easily and cheaply, some shoppers (approx 1 in 5) have taken to buying and using items, before returning them for a refund. This is known as wardrobing, and it is especially prevalent within fashion e-commerce. Oftentimes items are only worn once, for a special occasion or for a social media post, before being returned.  

Naturally, this behavior is something that brands wish to contain. The logistics process involved with high return volumes is expensive. Additionally, used then returned items will no longer maintain their original value, making them harder to sell onwards with the same profit margin. 

In short, wardrobing is costly for your business. Some brands have already made steps to tackle this behavior by implementing the following:  

  • Contacting customers who return often to make them aware of the situation. 

  • Adding more secure tags to clothes that indicate when items have been worn. 

  • More stringent product checks on returned items. 

  • Becoming more transparent in the returns policy about the issue of wardrobing. 

To avoid wardrobing, it is important to walk the fine line between a flexible, customer-pleasing returns policy and a process that will minimize serial returning to maintain profits. 


The Indecisive Shopper 

Flexible and customer-focused returns policies, such as free delivery and returns, often emboldens people to order more than they would without these perks.  

Studies have shown that, on average, e-commerce has a 20% returns rate.  

With approximately 1 in 4 items ending up as returns, shoppers who order higher volumes of products will ultimately end up sending more back. Some customers will order many items with the mindset of try-before-you-buy. Essentially turning their homes into the fitting room. Others will make larger orders to try out multiple sizes of the same item.  

To reduce the operational costs associated with reverse logistics, it is useful for your brand to consider ways to reduce the overall number of returns. Reducing this volume will spare unnecessary costs. But to minimize this, steps must be taken to discourage your customers from making bulk orders with the intent of returning several unwanted items.  

Here, it is beneficial to turn your focus to pre-sale activities. Make sure that items are shown clearly and authentically online, with detailed product information and accurate sizing charts. The more information you provide your customer with during the online sales process, the more confident you can make your shoppers about their purchases. Reducing this level of uncertainty will discourage your customers from over-ordering unnecessarily.   


The Unexpected Items Shopper 

Another factor that may encourage repeat returns could be inconsistencies on a product-level. Or, as previously mentioned, a lack of clear production information online.  

When online shopping, customers rely on the information on your website when determining whether to buy something. If this information lacks clarity or transparency, the risk of that sale ending up as a return increases. Therefore, it is imperative as a brand that you offer features such as detailed product descriptions, high-quality photos, and accurate size guides to ensure that your customers are not left with an unexpected item on their doorstep. 


Source: Karolina Grabowska, www.pexels.com


Additionally, it is also important to keep your products consistent in terms of aspects such as sizing and quality. Not only will this help to build a loyal customer base and encourage future sales, but it will lessen the chance that a customer receives an item not as described, or that does not meet expectations.  

Meeting your customers’ expectations on a product-level will help to reduce the likelihood of repeat returns by ensuring that nothing is falling short of expectations. 

In all, the best defense against serial returning is to implement features that prevent returns within the pre-sales process online. The more transparent and informative you can be with your customer, the better. It is also worth re-evaluating the fine line between flexible policies that add to customer satisfaction levels and cost-draining activities that this flexibility may encourage.