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How to minimize e-commerce returns: beginner and advanced strategies

May 10, 2023

How Augmented Reality helps e-commerce reduce returns

As an e-commerce manager, you’re no stranger to online retail battlefields.
You’ve fought valiantly to attract customers, convert leads, and keep those shopping carts full. Yet, there’s one formidable foe that never ceases to rear its ugly head – the dreaded product return.

We know you’ve been there, staring at the screen, wondering how to tackle this persistent problem without sacrificing customer satisfaction.
Fear not, brave e-commerce warriors: in this thrilling tale of retail redemption, we’ll unveil strategies and tactics that’ll help you slay the return beast and keep your customers happily ever after with their purchases.

In this article, we’ll uncover the reason behind purchase returns and how you, sharp-witted marketer, can address those concerns to reduce the impact of return on your revenue and operations.

The reasons behind e-commerce returns

Shoppers love the convenience of buying online, especially when paired with a return policy that cuts off any of the hassles connected – but the pesky problem of product returns can turn this love affair into a logistical nightmare.

Let’s face it, returns are the bane of every e-commerce retailer’s existence. According to National Retail Federation, 16.5% of e-commerce purchases in 2022 were returned.
This not only has a significant impact on results, but also on day-to-day operations, increasing the costs and resources needed to deal with the problem.

But before we dive into the how’s, let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind these boomerang buys:

  • Size misadventures: have you ever found yourself struggling to understand if that furniture fit in your room? In the online shopping realm, inconsistent sizing can send even the most seasoned shoppers into a frenzy, making them hesitate to hit that “Add to Cart” button.
  • Expectations vs. reality: the online world is notorious for smoke and mirrors. A product may look exquisite in photos, but when it finally arrives at your doorstep, it’s a whole different story. Disappointment is an express ticket to Returnsville, population: your precious products.
  • Color conundrums: color discrepancies can make or break a purchase, leaving customers feeling deceived and more likely to send that item back where it came from – with the extra gift of distrust, or more importantly, an unhappy review.

There can also be other reasons: the retailer shipped the wrong product, or it got damaged during the shipping process; there can also be fraudulent returns, and other occurrences that are not connected to the consumer’s dissatisfaction – hence will not be the subject for this article.

By understanding the root causes of e-commerce returns, we can see how some of these circumstances can be addressed specifically before purchase, with some elementary logic.

How to tackle e-commerce returns

In the quest to conquer returns, knowledge is key. Equipping your customers with accurate, detailed product descriptions is one of the most used (and obvious) strategies to reduce e-commerce returns. That’s not wrong, but it’s just the first thing any reasonable e-commerce manager would do.

Get visual with your products: a picture is worth a thousand words, but a video might be better for your e-commerce performance. Showcasing your products through high-quality images and videos, providing multiple angles and close-ups, would help customers feel more secure about their purchase.

But what about after that? The same basic logic would apply to the sizing game.
Size matters in e-commerce: eliminate sizing mishaps by providing clear, easy-to-understand size guides for clothing, shoes, and other fit-sensitive items.

After clearing out any possible concerns about size and description, the same reasoning should apply to the return policy. Stating clear return policies can make customers more keen to make a purchase, removing any obstacles in their decision making process.

The last thing you should focus on is customer support. It can make a huge impact on reducing returns. Assemble a team of experts who can tackle customer queries, offer personalized guidance, and prevent potential returns with swift, compassionate responses. After all, the customer is always right.

Until now, we’re just giving customers more information about products and services. A well-informed customer can easily be a happy returning customer and later, even a brand ambassador.

We can feel you frowning from here: are we really wasting your time with outdated strategies to reduce e-commerce returns? Well, not exactly. You see, all these things are the most basic conditions to meet to reduce customers’ returns. If you don’t offer all of this fundamental information to your customers, it’ll be hard to reduce returns.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s focus on advanced strategies that can have a real impact on reducing pesky e-commerce returns.

How e-commerce pros tackle customers’ returns

Most of the innovative strategies that can reduce e-commerce returns involve Augmented Reality (and just a pinch of VR).
Thanks to Augmented Reality, customers can superimpress objects on their body and surroundings to have a glimpse of how it would look and feel, in a way that’s more accurate than regular photos or videos.

Those strategies includes:

  • Virtual Try-Ons: by incorporating this technology into your e-commerce platform, you’ll empower customers to visualize and “try on” items like clothing, shoes, and accessories with just a few taps. That’s especially useful for fashion and luxury retailers: no more guessing games, just the perfect fit for every purchase. Wave farewell to size or color-related returns, offering customers a detailed look of how the product fits on them.
  • 3D Viewers: embedding an 3D viewer directly into your product pages will make customers able to explore and interact with 3D models of your products, getting up close and personal with every nook and cranny. This will enable more informed decisions, to let you say goodbye to “expectation vs. reality” returns.
  • AR Product Visualization: with AR product visualization you allow customers to see and interact with life-size models of your products in their own environments. From placing a new sofa in their living room to checking if that statement lamp complements their decor, AR product visualization can reduce returns based on mismatched expectations. This comes in handy for retailers that sell and ship bulky items, like aforementioned sofas, furniture or heavy electronics.

Lastly, a VR-based obligatory mention:

  • Virtual Fitting Rooms: although not part of the AR family, Virtual Reality fitting rooms are still a force to be reckoned with in the battle against e-commerce returns. These immersive environments let customers “step into” a virtual store to try on outfits in a digital space. One of the most recent and successful implementations of VR fitting rooms is the one realized by Zalando, a leading european fashion e-commerce platform.

Any of these strategies can help customers have a better understanding of products, their look and how they fit. By harnessing the power of AR (and a touch of VR), you’ll not only reduce e-commerce returns but also create a shopping experience that leaves your customers in awe.

One small step for AR, a giant leap in reducing e-commerce returns

Let’s face it: size and fit are the arch-nemeses of online shopping, accounting for a whopping 70% of returns. And with the pandemic turning us into fitness buffs or certified couch potatoes, our body sizing perceptions have gone haywire. Thankfully, AR comes to the rescue, soothing the e-commerce pain points and reducing returns in the process.

Retailers have been feeling the squeeze as customers crave more choices without the extra costs. While the expenses linked to services like free shipping are inevitably rolled into product prices, the key to maintaining healthy margins is optimizing costs and reducing returns. Sure, returns can’t be entirely eliminated, but who said we can’t improve the process?

Each merchant has unique needs, with fashion items seeing higher return rates compared to electronics and homeware. To tackle this challenge, retailers must focus on optimizing returns options, offering cost-effective solutions, streamlining systems, and providing transparency in the process. The right returns strategy can make all the difference in an e-commerce world dominated by giants like Amazon.

That’s where AR works its magic. By giving customers a clearer sense of size, color, and dimensions, AR-powered e-commerce experiences dramatically reduce the likelihood of returns. With AR on your side, it’s time to bid adieu to the two-way return blues and embrace a harmonious, profitable e-commerce symphony. So, let AR lead your strategy, and watch as your e-commerce thrives, one happy customer at a time.

Enough talk – it’s time to take a peek into the future of e-commerce. Book a demo today to witness our game-changing no-code AR tool in action, and say goodbye to product returns for good.