Streamline Returns Management: Secrets of Successful Return Policies

August 30, 2021
| by David Miles

The growth of online shopping over the years has brought unprecedented profitability and sales, however, with this increase in sales, stores are also witnessing an increase in customer returns. E-commerce return management is also it is also known as reversed logistics since the goods purchase most times go back to their original locations.

In 2019, 48% of customers returned goods they purchased online.
Many customers return goods for any reason, some of the reasons include;

  • Differences in product image online and the goods delivered
  • Been mailed the wrong product
  • Damaged product
  • No reason at all. 

Irrespective of the reason, returned goods hit your organization’s bottom line; it also attracts avoidable expenses. Your organization has to account for the shipping of the returned goods, the storage space, damaged items, loss of a customer, and worse off, a negative review.

A company does not necessarily have to experience loss or reduced profits from customer returns. To achieve this, the organization needs to have an effective quality control department. Quality control is essential in accessing the state of the returned goods, especially to identify defects. Quality control will help evaluate the next place the returned goods will go, either to the manufacturing plant or the incinerator.

Why streamline returns management?

Returned goods impact the supply chain by increasing the holding costs for its storage, and additional labor is required. Also, returned goods lose value, and their marketability will reduce over time. Hence, the need for streamlined returns management. It is best practice for an organization to have a plan to handle returned goods.

Streamlined returns management is the organization’s structure to reduce the possibility of products being returned by customers. To avoid the losses and expenses returned goods attract, organizations need to take some steps to mitigate the chances of returns.

3 Ways to streamline returns management

By following these steps, you can keep your customers happy and process simple:

1. Write a clear product description:

About 22% of customers return goods because they did not match what they saw online. Pictures of products can sometimes be misleading, so adding a clear description of the product would help customers understand all product details. Unlike walk-in stores where customers can see the product they are buying, they rely on the description of the product to know if the product is what they want. 

To reduce returns, specify the product’s details and dimensions as many ways as possible if you run an online store. If you run a walk-in store, you should remodel your packaging so clients have better ideas of what they are buying.

2. Pay attention to the products that are frequently returned:

Returns are expected. However, it is best to take note of the patterns of the returned goods. If a specific product is returned more often than others, you might want to address it. Items which are frequently returned are most likely defective or have other descriptive or packaging issues. Customers cannot all return the same product unless there is a product somewhere.

Therefore, you need to reevaluate the quality, change the design or repackage it. 

3. Give customers enough time to return products:

Customers believe that a 30-day period of time should be an adequate return window. To reduce the amount of returned goods, increase the return window to 60 or 90 days. This handsome window is for two reasons.

The generous timeframe will make customers want to buy because they believe they have ample time to return products that are not satisfactory. Hence, your sales will increase.

Secondly, the customers will be under no pressure to return a product. Shorter return windows communicate a sense of urgency. Most customers don’t thoroughly study the products they bought as they don’t want the return window to close. With a longer return window, clients have enough time to understand a product, reducing the chances of returning it. 

Also, since the return window is ample enough, some customers keep on procrastinating the return and end up not returning the products.

4. Conduct quality assurance testing of your products regularly:

Quality products attract customers; to keep them, you need to maintain that quality. Hence, the need for periodic checks. Regular quality assurance testing puts you in sync with how your customers use your products. You will understand why some of your products are returned and why they break down while in use. This will enable you to make necessary adjustments and reduce the number of subsequent returns.

Also, consistently sampling your products would help you find defects before your products hit the market. This will increase the acceptability of your products and reduce the chances of returns.

5. Make it easy for a customer to return your goods:

Trust is what sells your products repeatedly. When you make it easy for customers to return your goods, they trust you more easily. In fact, when your products break down, they assume the fault is theirs and would rather buy a new one than return the broken product.

You can make it easy for customers to return your products by:

o Volunteering to pay for shipping

o Giving them labels to print

o Asking few questions

It is estimated that 95% of customers that return products come back to place another order. Make it easy for them to return goods; they will surely return, not to return goods but make another purchase.


By taking steps to streamline returns management, you are doing a huge favor for your organization and your customers. Your organization gets to save unprecedented expenses that higher volumes of returned goods would have accrued. Also, you get to maximize profits, increase product quality, increase brand recognition, increase efficiency and make customers happy. 

Your customers buy more; they get to know their purchase more and are satisfied with the overall brand policy.

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