Product Returns: Trend Analysis and reversal

In the current marketing trends, product return is a very common aspect. Every year the product returns reach a staggering total of approximately $642.6 BILLION! Yes! You read it right, now blame it on the merchandise quality, the wrong size or buyers’ remorse or any other reason but around 20% of such returns are attributed to the US market.

Amongst all, a merchandise seller would be the most curious regarding what types of products are actually getting returned the most!

A recent online survey had been conducted to find out what the consumers are sending back to the retailers to create a hierarchy of the product returns on basis of categories. The survey enlightened us that in the “product return” market, clothes and accessories are being returned at a far higher rate than any other category.

75% of shoppers have reported returning clothing and accessories, compared to only 12% of shoppers who had returned outdoor & sports gear. The other categories and percentage of shoppers who returned it –

  • Electronics- 33%
  • Shoes-32%
  • Beauty and personal products- 13%

How a company handles its online and offline returns is one of the trickiest areas of customer support. The suitable action here is that sellers should build up return reversal policies on the basis of product category instead of applying same policies on all its products. Let’s have category-wise discussion starting with-


A fashion retailer traditionally deals with higher returns than other businesses.  The major reasons for returns and how they should be dealt with-

  • Size and fitting-Retailers in the US report a return rate between 20% and 40% for online sales, with poor fit cited as the number one reason. Fit-related-returns can be reduced by up to 50% by using virtual fitting rooms.

Virtual fitting rooms are the new technological wonder blurring the lines between online and physical fashion retail. The technology simulates the in-store dressing room environment and gives web shoppers a fun-filled, painless, and intelligent fit solution.

For most of the shoppers, it’s frustrating if they find that shopping on apparel seller’s website is a bit of a leap in the dark. Thus, matters related to fit become important and impact the sales and returns directly. It goes without saying that these services can play an instrumental role in maintaining an unhindered flow of revenues and product return reversal.

  • Quality– The buyer should be able to make his judgment regarding the quality of the product before actually purchasing it. To provide this convenience seller should upload the actual image of the product without any photoshopping, provide a maximum description regarding the material used, the accessories etc. and provide a high pixel image that can be zoomed to have a close look at the material


  • Wardrobing- This drawback is an integral part of sales which cannot be eradicated, but minimized with decent, intelligent and thought-through return policies.



Though fashion industry leads in product returns, the consumer electronic goods industry is not far behind and is rising continuously. Research estimates that U.S. consumer electronics manufacturers, communication carriers and retailers spent an estimated $67 billion in 2017 to receive, assess, repair, re-box, restock and resell returned merchandise.

The main factor of electronic goods return is low quality of the product or related services.

Key steps to reduce returns of electronic consumer goods-

  • Adequate after sale service– Electronics require glitch-free after-sale services like installation, wiring, how-to-use demo etc. A consumer is compelled to return the products if sufficient services are not provided to them.

Add on to the convenience of your customers by providing them a unified platform to positively influence every stage of the post-purchase journey.

  • Easily accessible Guarantee/ Warranty on the electronic product– A major class of electronic goods provides a minimum and maximum guarantee/ warranty period that varies according to the nature and cost of the product.

Availing such benefits depends on the maintenance of various documents. In today’s fast and paperless era, keeping the documents safely for a long time can be burdensome. The customers repel the products if they get a minute hint regarding the inconvenience that may come in their way later.

The sellers should integrate a digital platform in their business to provide a trouble-free experience to the customers’ like soft copies of invoices, warranty/guarantee cards etc.

  • Product-related accessories/ services- Easy availability and booking facilities for parts, accessories and services curtail the product return rate with a good margin. 
  1. SHOES

Reduce the return in shoe industry caused by size issue by upto23% by introducing a footwear sizing app as the wrong size is the principal issue for the return of shoes.

For example, the app, called Shoefitr, relies upon a database of shoe measurements that have been integrated by using a special three-dimensional imaging technology. This app helps consumers find the right size shoe by allowing them to compare the size of the shoe they are wearing to the one that they are shopping for.

Once shoppers compare the size of the shoe they are wearing with the one that they are shopping for, the sizing app heads to the next step. It will offer shopping recommendations based on what it calculates is the best size for the customer.


When it comes to beauty and personal products there’s a special and powerful heart connection especially when concerned with women. The beauty products are unable to be resold as new for safety reasons. To avoid huge loses, avoiding returns of such products becomes inevitable. The wise steps to be undertaken by every seller involved in selling beauty products-

  • Providing informative descriptions and complete information regarding the chemical formulations
  • Use high quality, but original images
  • Provide instructions on how to use the product, the skin types for which they are suitable, the benefits and precautions to be taken if any.

Retailers that sell these items need to partner with reverse logistics vendors who have disposition channels beyond remarketing.

Through these insights, retailers are can improve their quality standards and operations and fulfillment processes, focusing on ensuring long-term relationships with their customers. By focusing on category-based product return reversal retailers can go a long way to ensure long-term profitability, brand awareness, and their standing in a dynamic and competitive retail industry.

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