Return Reasons

Table of contents:

What are return reasons in e-commerce?

The reasons a consumer has for returning an order to an e-commerce store. These reasons can vary widely, and the seller will only know a customer’s reasons for returning if they ask upon receiving the return request.

Types of return reasons

A consumer's reasons for making a return can vary widely.

1. Sizing or fit issues:

Clothing, shoes, or accessories that do not fit as expected are often returned by customers who require a different size or find the item uncomfortable.

2. Damaged or defective item:

Customers may receive a faulty item or one that is damaged, which could have occurred either on the seller side or during the shipping process.

3. Did not meet expectations:

Something about the product does not meet the customer's expectations; for instance, the quality, features, price-to-value ratio, etc.

4. Changed mind or impulse purchase:

Sometimes customers simply change their minds or regret making an impulse purchase.

5. Incorrect order:

A mistake is made on the seller side and the customer receives the wrong items or an item missing from the order.

6. Delivery delays:

Lengthy shipping or delivery delays can frustrate customers or cause the item to arrive later than it was required, making it no longer necessary.

7. Unwanted gifts:

During holiday seasons or special occasions, customers may receive gifts they do not need or want, or need to return or exchange gifts they gave someone else.

8. Misleading product information:

Customers may receive a faulty item or one that is damaged, which could have occurred either on the seller side or during the shipping process.

9. Incompatibility or technical issues:

Customers may find that the product they ordered is incompatible with their existing equipment or experiences technical issues that make it unusable.

10. Unacceptable customer service:

Poor customer service experiences, such as unhelpful representatives, long wait times or unresponsive communication.



What are the worst return reasons?

The worst kind of returns are any reasons that could have been avoided and were the store’s fault. There is only so much you can do around personal preference, and sometimes customers will order items and then decide they don’t like them or don’t need them. 

When the return reason is something like poor quality, unacceptable customer service, misleading product information, incorrect fulfilment of orders or extreme delays in getting items shipped, these issues lie with the seller and could be avoided with better internal processes or quality assurance.

The most common return reasons

It would be preferable for most online sellers to have no returns, with every customer that makes a purchase leaving the transaction satisfied. Unfortunately, this is not typically the case, with returns becoming more and more common in e-commerce.

The exact figures vary by industry, but data suggests that e-commerce sellers overall face a return rate of more than 20%, while “brick and mortar” stores receive less than half of that in returns (9%). 

For fashion product categories, preference-based return reasons make up nearly three-quarters of all returns:

  • Size too small: 30%
  • Size too large: 22%
  • Changed my mind: 12%
  • Style: 8%

Return reasons not relating to preference make up about 10% of returns in these categories:

  • Not as described: 5%
  • Defective: 5%
  • Other or not specified: 18%


Below are the average return rates by industry and payment type, according to Shopify:


How to avoid the most common return reasons

While avoiding returns altogether is nearly impossible in the current e-commerce landscape, there are certainly ways for sellers to avoid or minimise the most common reasons for returns:

Write accurate product descriptions
Provide detailed and accurate product descriptions, including size charts, dimensions, material information and high-quality images. Clear and comprehensive information helps customers make informed purchase decisions, reducing the likelihood of returns due to mismatched expectations.

Request customer reviews and ratings
Encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings for products they have purchased. Genuine customer feedback helps prospective buyers understand the product better before making a purchase decision.

Create size guides and fit assistance
For apparel and footwear products, offer detailed guidance and tools to help customers select the right size on the first try.

Produce high-quality product images and videos
Utilise high-resolution images and, if possible, product videos to provide customers with a more accurate representation of the product. Multiple angles, zoom features and videos can help customers visualise the item better, reducing surprises upon delivery.

Implement strong quality control measures
Quality control processes should be in place to ensure that products are accurately described, properly packaged and free from defects before shipping. Thoroughly inspect items to reduce the likelihood of customers receiving damaged or defective products.

Provide prompt customer support
Provide responsive and helpful customer support to address any pre- or post-purchase inquiries or concerns quickly. 

Personalise product recommendations
Leverage customer data and purchase history to offer personalised product recommendations. By suggesting products that align with customers' preferences and needs, you can increase the likelihood of satisfaction with purchases.

How to find out a customer’s return reasons

Analysing return reasons over time can provide valuable insights to an e-commerce business about ways products and services could be improved. To find out a customer’s return reasons, ask them to explain why they want to return an order by answering a few follow-up questions and including photos, if applicable. This can either be through an online return portal, or on a paper form that the customer sends back with the returned order.

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