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E-Commerce Returns: Best Practices & Strategies

In the world of e-commerce, returns are now a crucial component that companies need to manage skillfully. 

Drawing from the expertise of Joe Anderson, CEO of Connex, this article breaks down the intricacies of return management, offering insightful analysis and useful tactics to steer companies toward long-term success.

Understanding the Challenges

To be able to apply the best strategies that’ll help your business lower return rates, you should first understand why certain challenges arise. Three of the most common challenges include: 

1. High Volume and Unpredictability of Returns

E-commerce businesses often grapple with the unexpected surge in return volumes which is why anticipating and effectively managing this unpredictability is crucial. 

Joe Anderson shares one experience, reflecting on a client’s substantial $30,000 in returns within a month which served as a wake-up call for businesses to proactively address the potential impact of returns on their operations

2. Identifying the Reasons for Returns

A crucial aspect of handling returns effectively is understanding the underlying reasons. But beyond the obvious product issues, returns can stem from customer service challenges or even marketing problems.

For example, one Connex client, a candle store owner, discovered a correlation between an advertising campaign and increased returns. Businesses should really focus on delving into the nuances of customer behavior and tailor their strategies accordingly.

“Companies need to figure out why people are returning things. Is there a pattern? Is it a product? Was the product damaged? Was a product not as described? Was this just a bad-fit customer? Was it a marketing problem?“ 

By analyzing the reasons behind returns you can have a better understanding of customer’s needs and find solutions that will mitigate the number of returns. 

3. Communication and Policy Clarity

Another thing that can pose a challenge is the conditions under which the product can be returned. The significance of clear communication regarding refund policies cannot be overstated. Clarity in policies is not only is it a means of setting customer expectations but also a way to build trust and transparency.

"Communicating the policy is clear. When you buy our software, we send you a contract and explain clearly that this is the refund policy of the company." 

Best Practices for Handling Returns

There are quite a few ways to overcome these e-commerce return challenges, so let’s go over some of the best practices for handling returns: 

Clear Return Policies

Creating and communicating clear return policies is crucial. This not only involves specifying return conditions on websites but also using straightforward language that customers can easily comprehend. 

You need to set realistic expectations for both the business and the customer. And make sure it’s visible too. For instance, outlining the condition in which items should be returned, time limits for returns, and any restocking fees.

“I bought a pair of boots and the shop owner said, listen, you can't walk around with these outside because I can't resell them. So, making it really clear before the purchase that this is the condition in which the product must be sent to us. And this is a number of days. This is what you need to do to do a return.”

Proactive Customer Engagement and Education

Educating customers about products and being transparent about the products’ properties helps significantly lower the return rates as it helps customers create more realistic expectations of the products they’re ordering. 

This includes providing them with detailed product descriptions, accurate sizing guides, clear images, and videos where applicable. All of this attributes towards a reduced likelihood of returns due to misunderstandings or unmet expectations.

Another thing that can help lower the return rates, is using marketing strategies that focus on attracting the right customer demographic for each product. This can help reduce the chances of returns from customers who were not the right fit for the product in the first place.

Plus, customer feedback is very valuable when it comes to understanding why returns happen - be it with the product, the ordering process, or customer expectations. That can help you identify and meet their needs and expectations better. 

Quality Control and Product Selection

Reducing returns starts with maintaining product excellence. Regular evaluations and other strong quality control methods are essential. By taking this proactive approach, the likelihood that defective products will reach customers is reduced, and customer satisfaction is increased overall.

But also understanding industry-specific reasons for returns is key. Clothing companies, for instance, often have challenges regarding the fit and color of their products. By acknowledging these common pitfalls, businesses can tailor their strategies to include detailed size guides, virtual fitting technologies, and accurate representations of colors, thereby mitigating return rates.

Adapting the Product Range

Businesses can adapt their product range based on return insights. Choosing items with historically lower return rates or those less prone to subjective evaluations, such as sizing or color preferences, is a strategic move. Smart product selection significantly impacts return rates as this approach minimizes the risk of dissatisfaction and aligns the product assortment with customer expectations.

"Figuring out why is it a marketing problem? Maybe this product just is low quality, and you should stop selling things that have high returns." This proactive analysis informs decisions on whether to continue offering specific items or to adjust strategies for better outcomes.

For refining these products strategies companies should really rely on analyzing return data. By identifying patterns and understanding why certain products experience higher return rates, businesses gain insights into potential issues. 


Mastering e-commerce returns requires a multi-faceted approach. Clear communication, proactive customer engagement, and strategic decisions regarding product quality and selection are key components of successful returns management. 

Joe Anderson's insights and real-world examples underscore the importance of not merely viewing returns as challenges but as opportunities for improvement. 

By integrating these strategies into their operations, businesses can transform returns from potential setbacks into catalysts for enhanced customer satisfaction and long-term success in the competitive world of e-commerce.

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