Pros & Cons of Providing a Return Label in the Box
Rebecca Fox

December 31, 2023

When you ship out products to your customers, you have to decide whether to include a return shipping label in the box. While a label-in-box approach may be convenient for customers, it has downsides for your business like higher costs and environmental impact.

When it comes to how you provide return labels to customers, there are a number of pros and cons to consider to see if it’s worth providing a return label in the box.

Pros & Cons of Including a Return Label With Orders

Here are some of the pros and cons of including a return label in the box of the original order. 

Keep in mind that the best decision for your business will ultimately depend on your specific needs and priorities.

Pros of a Label in the Box

Some advantages to including returns labels directly in the box when shipping out orders to customers include:

Convenience – Customers appreciate the convenience of having a return label already included in the package. This eliminates the need for them to track down a printer or go to the post office, making it easier for them to return their purchases.

Easy Returns – A return label in the box makes the returns process easy for customers. They can simply stick on the label, pack up the product, and drop it off at the nearest shipping location.

Cons of a Label in the Box

Providing return labels in the box also comes with several disadvantages that you should keep in mind:

High Costs – Including a returns label in the box can add to your costs, as you’ll need to print out a label for every order, even if they don’t return it.

For every order shipped, you’ll incur the cost of including a return label – even though only a percentage of customers actually end up using it. This reduces your profit margins and incurs extra costs that are redundant. 

Those unused return labels represent large amounts of wasted potential revenue which could have covered other business expenses. 

While return labels may provide a more convenient customer experience, the high-cost trade-off is one to seriously consider.

Environmental Impact – Printing out many return labels can have a negative environmental impact by generating a lot of waste. 

Global paper consumption is expected to double by 2060, along with the amount of paper waste. Paper makes up half of the waste generated by businesses.

Therefore, it’s probably not the best idea to be sending thousands of labels straight to landfill every month.

For eco-conscious businesses, these environmental impacts may outweigh the added customer convenience. It’s important to analyze the waste and emissions generated by return labels provided with every order.

Limited Customer Touchpoints – When you include a return label in the box, you’re losing out on an opportunity to interact with your customers. 

Missing an opportunity to re-engage with customers and bring them back to your website is a big sacrifice when using the label-in-box method. 

By receiving a return label in the box with their order, customers have no incentive to provide feedback or communicate about any issues with their order. This eliminates a touchpoint where you could potentially resolve problems, encourage exchanges instead, or rescue the sale.

Reduced Return Insights – You won’t be able to collect as much data about your returns when you include a return label in the box. This data can be valuable for understanding why customers are returning products and making improvements to your returns process.

Some stores include a slip where they encourage customers to share feedback or their reason for return before sending the product back. However, since customers don’t have any incentive to fill out the form, they often leave it blank. Even if they do fill it out, the data then has to be collected and inputted manually, creating a painstaking process to collect the information.

With a manual, offline returns process, you lose out on crucial insights into why items are being returned. Is the sizing off? Do the materials not match the product description? 

A lack of concrete return data makes it harder for you to pinpoint pain points and improve the customer experience.

Lack of Control –  When you include a return label in the box, you lose a level of control over the returns process. 

There’s no way to predict or prepare ahead of time for how many items will be returned within a given timeframe, leaving you to make reactive decisions. 

This lack of visibility into your returns workflows makes it hard to manage warehouse costs and control inventory dynamics.

Is it Worth Including a Return Label in the Box?

When weighing up the pros and cons of including a return label in the box, the cons seem to outweigh the pros.

The costs, environmental impact, lack of customer engagement, and loss of data provide compelling reasons for you to reconsider this strategy. 

While return labels in the box offer short-term convenience for customers, they can hurt your business in the long run through wasted resources and missed opportunities to improve the shopping experience. 

So what’s a better alternative? Print-on-demand labels.

The Solution: Print-On-Demand Labels

Generating return shipping labels on demand is a more sustainable and cost-effective way to handle returns. This way, you only print return labels when they’re needed. More than half of eCommerce stores offer returns with automatically generated pre-paid return labels.

With a print-on-demand return label process, a return shipping label is emailed to the customer when they initiate a return request. 

Advantages of print-on-demand return labels:


By generating labels only for actual returns, you avoid paying shipping for unused labels that end up in the trash.

With control over the shipping carriers and service level, you’ll know exactly how much it will cost and how long it will take to receive your returned items.

Generating return shipping labels in real-time significantly cuts label costs and makes returns much more cost-effective.

More Sustainable

Print-on-demand return labels are a far more sustainable option than pre-printed return labels.

Reducing the printing of return labels that aren’t used drastically decreases paper waste and carbon emissions, creating a greener, more eco-friendly solution for returns.

The environmental impact of online shopping is becoming increasingly important to customers, with 83% of customers considering sustainability when making purchases.

Better Customer Engagement & Insights

Offering print-on-demand labels through a return portal can help you boost customer engagement and insights, by collecting feedback from customers when they return products.

Understanding why customers initiate returns provides data that can help you optimize your products and improve the customer experience.

By collecting feedback from customers, you can also learn more about their customers’ needs and preferences, helping you create a better returns process.

How ReturnGO Can Help You Generate Return Labels

ReturnGO is a returns management system that can help you generate return labels on demand using a self-service return portal and a wide range of integrations with shipping carriers.

With ReturnGO, you can easily create return shipping labels, track returns, and collect data about your returns process.

Offer a self-service return portal through which customers can easily request a return or exchange and then receive an automatically-generated pre-paid return shipping label that they can print out and attach to their return package.

Chat with our experts to boost your customer return experience and LTV today.

Using ReturnGO to automatically generate return shipping labels helps you keep track of your return shipments, collect return reasons and other returns data, and monitor the returns process from start to finish, all in one place.

Print-On-Demand Labels: The Future of Efficient Returns

Automatically-generated return labels are more sustainable, easier to track, and more cost-effective than in-the-box labels.

No matter which approach you choose, it’s important to make sure that you have a clear return policy in place and that you’re collecting data about your returns process. This will help you to improve the returns experience and reduce the number of unnecessary returns.

So if you’re looking for a more efficient way to handle return shipments, use print-on-demand return labels through ReturnGO.

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