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Why e-commerce items get returned (and what you can do to prevent it)

Why e-commerce items get returned (and what you can do to prevent it)

As the number of e-commerce purchases skyrockets, it’s reasonable to expect that the number of returned items is also burgeoning. This is costly for the retailer and annoying at best for the consumer.

According to Small Business Trends, the number of returns has been increasing by an average of 200 thousand annually. In 2016, there were one million returned packages. This went up to 1.3 million in 2017, and by more than 1.4 million in 2018.

Depending on the situation, items that are received either get returned or, in situations like many of our clients where we were delivering large items like furniture, the resident does not accept the delivery and we end up bringing it back. Either way, rejected or returned deliveries cause the retailer to have to pay for the restocking of the product, or even loss of inventory if they deem it too expensive to pay for the item to be shipped back to them.

With more and more businesses beginning to sell their products online, there is a rising need for improved returns processes. In December 2018, we wrote a blog that talked about the value of having an established returns policy in place.

Today, we want to tackle the idea of why consumers are returning items or rejecting deliveries in the first place, and what retailers can do to fix the problems.

What’s being returned?

Much of the research out there combines returns and rejected items but the concept is basically the same. According to research done by Small Business Trends, the most commonly returned items are:

  • Clothing (75 percent)
  • Electronics (27 percent)
  • Shoes (23 percent)
  • Beauty/personal products (15 percent)
  • Outdoor/sports gear (23 percent)
  • Food (6 percent)
  • Other (4 percent).

Driving forces of returns

As last mile delivery providers, we hear many reasons for customers wanting to reject their deliveries including buyer’s remorse, item not appearing as what the customer envisioned based on the description, or, sometimes, slight defects in the product.

Small Business Trends examined this issue in their survey as well and the main reasons for returning items that were left at the door pretty much echoes our experience:

  • Defective product (59 percent)
  • Buyer’s remorse (42 percent)
  • Misrepresentation of the product (29 percent)
  • Other (35 percent)

Finding solutions to the problem

It’s one thing to tell you there’s a problem but here are some basic tips to help solve those problems. We know that returns and rejected inventory will continue to be an issue, but these tips will help retailers lessen the negative impact.

Better descriptions-The first and possibly the simplest way to help limit the number of items being returned to your business is to ensure that the description of the item is accurate. If you include an accurate and precise description, the buyer knows exactly what they are getting.

Improve packaging-The second way to help this problem is to have good and sturdy packaging. This helps make sure the products will not be damaged in route to the destination. Consider changing how you package your items, including how they are handled before being placed in the packaging.

Improve your returns process-The Reverse Logistics Association, according to this article from Shopify, says that the “return and repair” process is 10 percent of all total supply chain costs. However, if the process gets stuff from inefficiencies, profits can be reduced by 30 percent. Common problems that make the returns process inefficient include not having a clear returns policy in place for the consumer, and not having a clear process in your warehouse.

Let us help

A big part of the supply chain process is choosing a quality last mile delivery provider that will take great care with the items they are delivering. Contact us today for all your delivery needs in Northwest Arkansas, Little Rock, and Tulsa area.

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