How to Reduce Cancellations & Returns for Your Online Store

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Cancellations and returns are inevitable. Thanks (or no thanks) to online giants like Amazon, it’s become the norm for ecommerce stores to allow people to easily return unwanted items, often free of charge.

Unfortunately, cancellations and returns cost online stores money, and if the volume of cancellations and returns isn’t kept under control, these costs can rapidly eat away at your bottom line.

What can online stores do to reduce cancellations and returns?

Fortunately, there are several things online stores can do to reduce buyers’ regret. In this article, we’ll talk about all of them. But first, let’s look at why people return products in the first place.

Why Do People Return Products?

To better understand how to reduce returns, we must first understand why people return things. So let’s take a look at some of the data.

Source: Rower Reviews

According to a survey of 7,668 shoppers by Power Reviews,

“The top three reasons people gave for returning an item was that it didn’t fit (70%), the item was damaged or defective (65%), or the item didn’t match the description (49%).”


“Two in three shoppers agreed that they would be less likely to return a product if they had been able to view user-submitted reviews, Q&A, or image and video prior to purchasing.”

Rewrite Your Product Descriptions

The first step in addressing the problem of returns is to rewrite your product descriptions. We recommend tackling this first because it is low-hanging fruit. Start with the products that are returned most often and make sure the product description:

  • Is as detailed as possible.
  • Is as accurate as possible.
  • Answers common questions about the product.
  • Highlights social proof.
  • Avoids cliches.

This video from Shopify is an excellent introduction to great product description copywriting.

Providing more accurate and thorough product descriptions can reduce returns because it will give customers a better idea of what they’ll receive. On top of reducing returns, quality product descriptions can increase conversions and boost SEO.

Post Updated Photos

Next up, it’s time to reshoot those product photos. The goal is to provide the most detailed images possible, so people know what to expect when they open the package.

Good lighting is a must. So are close-ups.

Since consumers say that items not fitting is the number one reason to return an item, it can be helpful to note what size an item is in the photo. For example, you could say that “The model in the photo is 5’8” and 150 lbs and is wearing a size medium.”

Showcase Product Videos

Now it’s time to take it to the next level by incorporating product videos. This process helps consumers better understand what they’re ordering.

Patagonia does a great job of this. Nearly every product on their website has a video of someone walking through the details.

If this sounds like too much work, don’t sweat the small stuff. You can make these videos in your garage with your cell phone camera and a tripod. Often, people are more concerned with honesty and transparency and less concerned about product quality.

Get More Reviews

Even if you have excellent descriptions, photos, and videos, you might still be unable to answer every question.

But do you know who might be able to help? Other customers.

Try incentivizing customers to leave reviews by offering discounts on a future purchase or entering them into a raffle. For more ideas, check out our guide to getting more customer reviews.

Fine-Tune Your Post-Purchase Email Cycle

You didn’t think that we, Quantum Lifecycle Marketing, were going to write an entire post about ecommerce without mentioning email marketing, did you?

From our experience, a fine-tuned post-purchase email sequence is one of the best ways to reduce returns and cancellations.


Because post-purchase emails and transactional emails often have the highest open rates out of any messages. Online stores would be remiss if they didn’t use this opportunity to provide value for their customers.


Start by letting customers know what they can expect with their order when you send an order confirmation email.

We recommend creating different order confirmation email journeys based on products, that way, you can educate customers on how to best use your product.

For example, if you are selling inflatable kayaks, you could include information on inflation times, best practices for deflation, and how to properly store the kayak when not in use. Providing information like this upfront will help customers get the most of your product, which can reduce returns.

Use the Right Packaging

As we mentioned earlier, 65% of people return items because they are damaged or defective. So don’t skimp on packaging and protect your valuable goods.

No one wants things to get broken during shipping, so make your packaging near-indestructible.

What to do if Someone Does Want to Cancel or Return an Order?

Now that we’ve covered what you can do to reduce cancellations or returns, let’s talk about what you can do when the inevitable cancellation or return does happen (because it most certainly will).

Ask Questions

First up, ask questions. To provide the best possible customer service and increase the likelihood of a repeat purchase, you need to understand why the customer isn’t happy and what you can do to remedy the situation.

One easy way to ask questions is to use an online form (you can use a free service like Google Forms or something more customizable like Typeform). Tools like Google Forms are great because you can use logic to ask different questions or offer different resolutions based on responses.

Here are some examples of questions to ask:

  • Why do you want to return this item?
  • Are you happy with the quality of the product?
  • Is there anything we can do to make this right?

Depending on the answers to the above questions, you can start to offer resolution options. The goal is to make the customer happy while keeping your revenue (if possible).

Offer a Partial Refund

One of the easiest things you can do is offer a partial refund and let the customer keep the item. Offering a partial refund is a great way to make them happy without you having to pay for return shipping costs.

Offer a Discount on a Future Order

If the item just isn’t going to work for the customer and they don’t want a partial refund, you can offer them a discount on a future order.

Offer an Exchange

If they like the item, but it isn’t the proper size or color, offer to exchange it free of charge.

Ask Them to Stay in Touch

Sometimes all you can do is process the return and ask the customer to stay in touch by following you on social media or subscribing to your email newsletter.

Like we said in the beginning, returns and cancellations are inevitable. Fortunately, there are tactics online stores can use to reduce buyers’ regret and lower the number of canceled or returned orders.

Reducing cancelations and returns all boils down to two things: transparency and customer service. Transparency means providing as many details as possible about the product or service before a customer makes a purchase. Customer service means offering the best possible resolution in hopes of creating a loyal customer for life.

If you can manage these two things, you are well on your way to lifecycle marketing success.



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