By Zieliński Jerzy

Returns of goods in an online store: how to manage?

It is known that every seller would like customers not to return goods: unfortunately, this is unrealistic. Online store returns are inevitable: a report prepared by indicates that in 44% of online stores surveyed, up to 3% of orders are returned. How to manage returns so as not to lose the customer? How to reduce the number of returns? Today more about what probably no e-commerce owner likes, namely returns.

Do you see the number of returns in your online store increasing? Contact me – I will perform an audit of your store and see what can be improved. I am an e-commerce manager: I will help you increase your profits.

Why do customers choose to return goods?

The reasons vary: I have sorted the reasons from the most popular to the least common (again based on data from the report):

  • The customer has blundered: this is a fairly common scenario in which a customer, after a purchase, comes to the conclusion that he or she does not need the product after all, or has found a better alternative.
  • Product doesn’t fit or doesn’t like: it’s common for customers to receive a product that doesn’t meet their visual or practical expectations. You may find that the color, size or design does not match your expectations (this is why detailed information and realistic photos on the website are so important!).
  • The product is no longer needed: customers can choose to return it when it turns out that the purchased goods are unnecessary, for example, after a change in plans or needs.
  • The product does not match the description in the store (wrong description/photo in the store): if the product that the customer receives is significantly different from the description or photo on the website of the online store, this may be grounds for return.
  • The product was damaged in delivery: if the product arrives to the customer in a damaged condition due to delivery errors or improper packaging, the customer has the right to return or claim.
  • Excessively long lead times: long delays in delivery may prompt the customer to cancel the order and demand a refund.
  • The product does not match the description in the store (mistake in delivery): when the customer receives a different product than the one he ordered, it may require a return and reshipment of the correct goods.
  • The product had a hidden defect (complaint): if the customer discovers a hidden defect in the product after purchase, he has the right to file a complaint and receive a refund or replacement of the goods.

Understanding the various reasons for merchandise returns can help online stores improve their services and minimize the costs associated with handling returns. Up to 32% of small stores do not analyze the reasons for returns: this is a big mistake, because how can you optimize e-commerce if you don’t know what makes a customer return?

How much do returns of purchased goods cost you?

Returns of purchased goods involve significant costs for the online store. The costs associated with the return of goods consist of various elements. First of all, you need to take into account transportation costs, which include both reimbursement for delivery to the customer and any costs associated with collecting the return from the customer.

In addition, it is necessary to store returned goods, especially if they are no longer immediately saleable. If the customer has unpacked the goods from the original packaging, the product may need to be repaired or repackaged.

Customer service, related to return processing and communication, also generates costs.

In addition, the costs associated with re-selling, such as the cost of displaying products on the store’s website or e-commerce platform and restocking orders, are a significant component of the total cost of returns.

It’s worth noting that a high percentage of returns cannegatively affect a company’s liquidity, so managing them is a key aspect if you want to build an efficient e-commerce business.

Can the seller refuse to return the goods? Return policy in the online store

It is worth understanding that there are specific rules for returning goods in an online store, which determine whether the seller can refuse to accept the return of goods. The consumer has the right to withdraw from the sales contract without giving any reason, but there are specific deadlines and conditions.

How long will it be legal to return goods in e-commerce? In the case of online sales, there is a 14-day period for returning goods without stating a reason. The customer, meanwhile, can initially inspect and unpack the goods, but cannot use them.

The 14-day period begins at different times depending on the type of contract, for example, from the moment the consumer takes possession of the item or from the delivery of the last part of the goods in contracts involving the delivery of multiple items.

There is also an important note:if you do not inform the consumer of his right to withdraw from the contract, the deadline will expire 12 months after the 14 days have passed. However, if you inform the consumer of this right before the expiration of these 12 months, the withdrawal period will be shortened to 14 days from the date of providing this information. Therefore, it is important for an online store to follow these rules and inform customers about their rights related to withdrawal.

How can a customer return goods?

In order for a customer to return goods, he or she must submit a statement of withdrawal to the entrepreneur. There are several ways to do this. The consumer can use the form available in the appendix to the Law on Consumer Rights or the model statement provided by the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (OCCP). He can also use an online form, whereby an acknowledgment of receipt of the withdrawal sent to the consumer is necessary.

Note, however, that there is a group of products excluded from e-commerce return regulations, such as goods manufactured to the consumer’s specifications or sealed products that are unsuitable for return for health or hygiene reasons and whose packaging has been opened after delivery.

Who bears the cost of returning the goods in an online store?

When it comes to the cost of returning goods from an online store, there are several important aspects to consider. First of all, if the seller does not inform the customer of the cost of return, when the goods cannot be sent back by mail due to their size or specificity, it is the seller who must bear the cost of return shipping.

Additionally, there are situations in which the trader is obliged to collect the goods from the customer. Several conditions must be met here: the sale took place off-premises (e.g., at a show), the goods were delivered to the customer’s residence, and the nature of the goods makes it impossible to simply send them back by mail, for example, due to their large size or the need for complex disassembly.

It is also worth noting that if the customer decides to withdraw from the contract, but has used the purchased goods in a manner beyond normal inspection, the seller has the right to charge him additional costs due to the reduction in the value of the goods. However, in order to preserve this right, it is necessary to inform the customer about the possibility of withdrawal and how to make a return.

When do you have the right not to accept the return of goods?

Examples of such situations are when:

  • The price depends on fluctuations in the financial market.
  • The product was manufactured against the customer’s specifications, specifically for his needs.
    The product spoils quickly or has a short shelf life.
  • The product is delivered in a sealed package, and once opened, it is not suitable for resale, for example, for hygienic reasons.
  • Alcoholic beverages, the price of which was agreed upon at the conclusion of the sales contract, which could not be delivered until after 30 days.
  • The customer specifically requested that the entrepreneur come to him for urgent repair or maintenance.
  • The product is sound or visual recordings or computer programs delivered in sealed packaging, if the packaging is opened after delivery.
  • The product is newspapers or magazines (except for a subscription contract).
  • The contract was concluded through a public auction.
  • The contract specifies the day or period of service for the provision of digital content that is not recorded on a tangible medium, if the customer begins to use it before the
  • The expiration of the deadline for withdrawal from the contract.

However, it is worth remembering that you must inform the customer of any restrictions on the ability to return the goods.

Return of goods in the store: how to reduce the number of returns?

Returns of goods in an online store are an integral part of online commerce, so I won’t promise you that you will avoid them completely . However, there are ways to make returns of goods in an online store happen less often.

1. detailed product information

Accurate descriptions and high-quality product photos play a key role in reducing the number of returns. The more a potential customer knows about a product before making a purchase, the less chance of dissatisfaction after receiving it. A few important points that help in this regard are:

  • Good quality photos showing the product from different sides and in detail. 3D photos or videos showing the product from different angles are also a good idea.
  • Size charts with exact measurements, making it easier for the customer to choose the right size.
  • Full product specifications, including relevant information such as material, features, and other characteristics.
  • Installation/use instructions if you sell tools or electronic equipment, for example.
  • Realistic color presentations, although it’s always good to be informed that the hue may vary depending on the screen settings.
  • Demonstration videos, showing the product in use or in action, especially in technical industries where photos are not sufficient.
returns of goods in an online store how to reduce the number of

2. product samples

For products whose appearance is hard to convey in photos, such as tiles, panels, cosmetics or paints, you might consider offering customers the opportunity to order samples. This will allow customers to get to know the product better before making a purchase, which in turn reduces the risk of returns.

3. building customer loyalty

People who feel connected to a brand and use loyalty programs are less likely to make returns. There are many ways to build customer loyalty, such as:

  • Preferential terms and conditions for registered users, encouraging them to set up accounts at the online store.
  • Valuable newsletter, providing customers with information about news and promotions.
  • Loyalty programs, rewarding regular customers for their purchases.
  • The option to add products to favorites, making it easier for customers to track and purchase their favorite products, while giving them time to think without searching for the product again.

  • User-generated content,
    i.e. user-generated content, such as reviews and feedback, that builds trust in products and brands.

Increasing customer satisfaction benefits not only your customers, but also you: a large number of returns definitely reflects negatively on the health of your online store.

Need more personalized e-commerce guidance? Still not sure what is causing your store to have so many returns? Call or write: I will look at your e-commerce and find a solution!

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