Average eCommerce Return Rate: What You Need to Know

June 22, 2023



    In this article, we'll delve into the average ecommerce return rate, what it means, and how ecommerce businesses can keep their return rates low.

    Exploring the Average eCommerce Return Rate: Insights and Analysis

    The average ecommerce return rate can vary depending on various factors, including the industry, product type, and customer demographics. However, studies have shown that the average return rate for ecommerce purchases typically falls between 15% and 30%.

    Several factors contribute to return rates in ecommerce, including incorrect sizing, product dissatisfaction, damaged items during shipping, and buyer's remorse.

    Additionally, the ease of online shopping and generous return policies provided by many ecommerce retailers contribute to higher return rates compared to traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

    It's important for ecommerce businesses to closely monitor and manage return rates as they can impact profitability and customer satisfaction.

    Implementing strategies such as providing detailed product descriptions, accurate sizing charts, high-quality product images, and responsive customer support can help reduce return rates and enhance the overall shopping experience for customers.

    Factors Influencing Ecommerce Return Rates

    Several factors contribute to ecommerce return rates. Here are some of the most common factors that ecommerce businesses should consider:

    1. Product Quality and Expectations

    Customers expect products to match or exceed product descriptions and images. When products don't meet customer expectations, they are more likely to be returned. Therefore, quality control and accurate product descriptions are essential for ecommerce businesses to reduce returns.

    Moreover, product quality can also be affected by the manufacturer's processes and materials. For instance, a product made with low-quality materials can break or wear out quickly, leading to a higher return rate. Ecommerce businesses should carefully vet their suppliers and manufacturers to ensure that they meet quality standards.

    2. Shipping and Delivery Issues

    Shipping and delivery issues are among the most common reasons customers return items. Late deliveries, damaged packages, or lost items can all lead to higher return rates. Therefore, ecommerce businesses should partner with reliable shipping companies to ensure timely and secure deliveries.

    Additionally, businesses can also provide customers with tracking information and delivery updates to keep them informed about their orders' status. This can help reduce anxiety and frustration related to delivery issues, ultimately leading to fewer returns.

    3. Sizing and Fit Discrepancies

    Sizing and fit issues are significant contributors to return rates in the apparel industry. eCommerce businesses that use sizing charts and virtual fitting tools can reduce sizing-related return rates.

    However, sizing and fit discrepancies can also be caused by the customer's body shape and preferences. Ecommerce businesses can address this issue by providing detailed fit information and allowing customers to leave reviews and feedback on the product page.

    4. Customer Preferences and Buyer's Remorse

    Some customers return items due to personal preferences and buyer's remorse. For instance, a customer may change their mind about a purchase after delivery. Ecommerce businesses can reduce return rates in this category by providing detailed product descriptions, high-quality images, and flexible return policies.

    Moreover, businesses can also offer personalized recommendations and product suggestions based on the customer's browsing and purchase history. This can help customers find products that better match their preferences and reduce the likelihood of returns due to buyer's remorse.

    Industry-Specific Return Rates

    Return rates vary depending on the industry. Understanding the return rates in your industry can help you make informed decisions about your business. Here are some examples of return rates in various sectors:

    Fashion and Apparel

    The fashion and apparel industry is known for having a high return rate. The average return rate for apparel items is around 20%. This is due to sizing and fit issues accounting for most of the returns.

    Customers often struggle to find the right size or fit, leading to frustration and the need to return the item. Additionally, customers may have different expectations when it comes to the quality of the item, leading to returns.

    Electronics and Gadgets

    Electronics and gadgets are a popular item for online shoppers. However, return rates for electronics range between 5% and 15%. Defective items and dissatisfaction are the leading causes of returns.

    Customers may receive a product that is not functioning properly, leading to the need for a return. Additionally, customers may be dissatisfied with the product, either due to its quality or features.

    Home and Kitchen

    Home and kitchen items are essential for any household. Return rates for these items range between 5% and 10%. Issues with product quality and expectations and shipping and delivery are common reasons that lead to returns.

    Customers may receive a product that does not meet their expectations, leading to the need for a return. Additionally, shipping and delivery issues can cause frustration and lead to a return.

    Health and Beauty

    Health and beauty items are a popular item for online shoppers. The return rate for health and beauty items ranges between 5% and 10%. Dissatisfaction is the leading cause for returns.

    Customers may be dissatisfied with the product, either due to its quality or effectiveness. Additionally, customers may have a negative reaction to the product, leading to the need for a return.

    Understanding the return rates in your industry is important for managing your business. By addressing common issues that lead to returns, you can improve customer satisfaction and reduce return rates.

    Understanding Ecommerce Return Rates

    Return rates are a measure of the percentage of items that are returned by customers. In ecommerce, return rates include all items that are shipped to customers, including those that get returned due to defects, damage, wrong sizes, dissatisfaction, etc.

    What is a Return Rate?

    Return rate is a critical metric for ecommerce businesses because it helps them understand how often and why customers return items. It's calculated by dividing the number of items returned by the total number of items sold.

    However, return rates can be affected by several factors, including the industry, product category, and seasonality. For instance, the return rate for clothing and apparel is usually higher than that of electronics and gadgets.

    This is because customers may have difficulty determining the right size or fit when shopping online for clothes. As a result, they may return the item if it does not fit as expected.

    Why Return Rates Matter in Ecommerce

    High return rates can significantly impact ecommerce businesses' revenue, margins, and customer value. A high return rate may indicate that customers are not satisfied with product quality, size, or fit. This leads to a decreased satisfaction rate, reduced customer retention and loyalty, and lower profits.

    Moreover, high return rates can increase operational costs for ecommerce businesses. This is because they have to handle and process returned items, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Additionally, some returned items may not be resalable, leading to inventory write-offs and losses.

    Here are the key points explaining the reason return rates matter in ecommerce.

    • Customer Satisfaction: Return rates matter in ecommerce because they directly reflect customer satisfaction. High return rates indicate that customers are not completely satisfied with their purchases, which can negatively impact your brand reputation and future sales.
    • Financial Impact: Return rates have a significant financial impact on ecommerce businesses. Each returned item incurs costs associated with processing, restocking, and potential losses due to damaged or unsellable products. Monitoring and managing return rates can help mitigate these financial implications.
    • Operational Efficiency: High return rates can disrupt the operational efficiency of an ecommerce business. Processing returns, managing inventory, and restocking items require time and resources. By reducing return rates, businesses can allocate their resources more effectively and streamline operations.
    • Inventory Management: Return rates directly affect inventory management. High return rates can lead to excess inventory, tying up valuable resources and affecting cash flow. By analyzing return patterns, businesses can adjust their inventory levels and make informed decisions to optimize stock levels.
    • Customer Loyalty and Repeat Business: Handling returns effectively can positively impact customer loyalty. By offering hassle-free return processes and exceptional customer service, businesses can retain customers and encourage repeat purchases. Satisfied customers are more likely to become loyal advocates for your brand.
    • Product Quality and Improvement: Monitoring return rates provides valuable insights into product quality and customer preferences. By analyzing return reasons, businesses can identify patterns and make improvements to product design, manufacturing, or customer communication to minimize future returns.
    • Competitive Advantage: Lower return rates can give ecommerce businesses a competitive edge. Customers are more likely to choose a retailer with a reputation for quality products and a low return rate. Demonstrating a commitment to customer satisfaction can differentiate your brand from competitors.
    • Conversion Rate Optimization: Reducing return rates can positively impact conversion rates. When customers have confidence in the quality and fit of products, they are more likely to convert from browsing to making a purchase. A lower return rate can signal higher product satisfaction and encourage more conversions.
    • Customer Feedback and Insights: Return rates provide an opportunity to gather valuable customer feedback. By analyzing return reasons and customer comments, businesses can gain insights into product issues, sizing concerns, or areas for improvement, helping them refine their offerings and enhance the overall customer experience.
    • Sustainable Business Practices: Lower return rates contribute to more sustainable business practices. By minimizing returns, ecommerce businesses reduce their carbon footprint associated with shipping and restocking processes, supporting environmental responsibility.

    Understanding why return rates matter in ecommerce enables businesses to proactively address customer concerns, improve operations, and enhance customer satisfaction. By focusing on reducing return rates, businesses can strengthen their brand reputation, drive customer loyalty, and ultimately increase their bottom line.

    On the other hand, low return rates, coupled with high customer satisfaction, can lead to increased customer loyalty, higher profits, and a positive brand reputation.

    A low return rate indicates that customers are satisfied with the product quality, size, and fit. This leads to increased customer retention and loyalty, positive word-of-mouth, and higher profits.

    Ecommerce businesses can reduce return rates by providing accurate product descriptions, images, and sizing charts. They can also offer free returns, which can increase customer confidence and reduce the perceived risk of buying online.

    Additionally, providing excellent customer service can help resolve customer issues and reduce the likelihood of returns.

    Reducing Ecommerce Return Rates

    High return rates can have a profound impact on ecommerce businesses. Therefore, businesses must implement measures to reduce return rates. Here are some ways ecommerce businesses can reduce return rates:

    Accurate Product Descriptions and Images

    Ecommerce businesses need to provide accurate and detailed product descriptions and high-quality images to set appropriate customer expectations and reduce return rates.

    Inaccurate product descriptions and low-quality images can lead to customers receiving products that do not meet their expectations, leading to high return rates. Therefore, ecommerce businesses must invest in creating comprehensive product descriptions and high-quality images that showcase the product's features and benefits.

    Moreover, businesses can also include videos that demonstrate the product's functionality and usage. This can help customers understand the product better and make informed purchase decisions, leading to a decrease in return rates.

    Implementing Size Guides and Virtual Fitting Tools

    Apparel and footwear businesses can reduce sizing-related return rates by providing size guides and virtual fitting tools that guide customers in making accurate size choices. This can help customers select the right size and reduce the likelihood of returns due to size issues.

    Moreover, businesses can also provide detailed information about the product's fit, such as whether it runs small or large. This can help customers make informed decisions about the product's size and reduce the likelihood of returns.

    Streamlining Customer Support and Communication

    Effective customer support and communication can help to solve customer issues quickly and reduce return rates. Ecommerce businesses can leverage chatbots, email, and social media to communicate effectively with customers.

    Chatbots can provide customers with quick and efficient solutions to their queries, while email and social media can be used to provide personalized support to customers.

    Moreover, businesses can also provide proactive communication to customers, such as order confirmation emails and shipping updates. This can help customers feel informed and reduce the likelihood of returns due to confusion or lack of information.

    Offering Flexible Return Policies

    Flexible return policies provide customers with confidence in the ecommerce business and, ultimately, reduce return rates. Offering free returns, extended return periods, and exchanges can help businesses maintain favorable return rates.

    Moreover, businesses can also provide customers with the option to return products to physical stores, reducing the hassle of returning products through shipping.

    Furthermore, businesses can also provide incentives for customers to keep the product instead of returning it. For example, offering discounts on future purchases or providing additional products can encourage customers to keep the product and reduce the likelihood of returns.


    In conclusion, ecommerce return rates are crucial metrics that affect businesses' profitability and customer loyalty. Understanding return rate metrics and the factors that influence returns can help ecommerce businesses identify the causes of returns and develop effective strategies to reduce them. By implementing measures such as accurate product descriptions, virtual fitting tools, flexible return policies, and effective customer support and communication strategies, ecommerce businesses can reduce return rates and maintain customer satisfaction, loyalty and improve business profitability.


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