The psychology behind returns: Understanding customer behavior with ReturnQueen and AfterShip

What if we told you that understanding the psychology behind returns could be the secret to making more sales? Let’s uncover the most common reasons why your customers are returning perfectly good products, and explore how that knowledge can actually boost your success.

The psychology behind returns: Understanding customer behavior with ReturnQueen and AfterShip

Every retailer knows that some returns will always be inevitable. No matter how good your products are! 

But how do you minimize the number of returns your customers make? Well, the first step is understanding how your customers think. 

We’ve collaborated with AfterShip, one of the leading post-purchase customer experience platform, to dive into the main reasons why customers return products, and how understanding these motivations can help you improve your return policies and product offerings:

Why do customers return products?

There are many reasons why customers will send products back and ask for a refund. Some are obvious, like if a product is returned for being broken or faulty, and the lesson there is simple: pay better attention to your quality assurance processes next time around! 

But other times, there seems to be nothing you could have done differently - and those are the ones retailers often find more difficult to learn from. 

Let’s take a look at the three main reasons why customers will send a perfectly good product back to you, and what you can do to reduce the risk of it happening:

1. The fit dilemma

We've all been there – ordering the perfect outfit only to realize it either fits like a potato sack, or we can’t squeeze into it at all. Fit-related returns are incredibly common, especially in the fashion world. 

As a retailer, you can tackle this issue head-on by providing detailed sizing charts, user-generated reviews with size references, and even offering virtual try-on features to help customers make the right decision. 

You can also take this as an opportunity to push exchanges rather than returns, to make sure you keep hold of the money your customer paid. Make sure your top-selling products are well stocked in all sizes, so you can offer your customers a swap when they initiate their return, and be really clear at that point that you do offer exchanges (ideally, for free!).

2. The ‘expectation vs reality’ check

Ah, the anticipation of receiving a package, only to unbox it and be met with disappointment. Whether it's the color not matching the online image exactly, or the fabric not being quite what they were hoping for, customers returning products due to unmet expectations can be a bitter pill to swallow. 

You can bridge this gap as a retailer - and do both your customers and your business a favor - by investing in high-quality product imagery, displaying honest customer reviews, and having clear return policies that build trust and manage expectations.

3. The indecisive shopper

Decision paralysis is real! When faced with a whole bunch of options, some customers might resort to the 'buy now, decide later' approach, only to realize they don't really need or want what they bought from you. 

Simplifying your product choices, offering personalized recommendations, and providing hassle-free return options are all great ways to help alleviate the stress of decision-making for your customers, and reduce how many returns you get from indecisive buyers.

How understanding customer behavior can benefit retailers

Remember that a return doesn’t mean the end of your relationship with that customer. If they’ve just returned something because it was the wrong size or fit, they’ll still be very happy to shop with you again - provided you offer them an outstanding return experience. 

1. Tailored and flexible return policies

One size fits all? Not in the world of return policies. Whether it's offering extended return windows around the festive period, providing free return shipping for fit-related returns, or offering effortless doorstep pickup returns, tailoring your return policies can boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.

And our friends at AfterShip have the data to prove it: 

“When it comes to returns, our research confirms that the more flexibility a merchant offers, the more revenue they’ll ultimately retain. A recent study of 1,487 eCommerce retailers using AfterShip showed that merchants providing three or more return resolution options see a revenue retention rate increase of 30% or more. Customers particularly appreciate the ability to exchange for other items, which saw an average of nearly 12% in increased upsell revenue.”

Source: AfterShip

The numbers speak for themselves. Allowing your customers the option to exchange or replace items they’re not happy with can help you hold onto a lot more revenue - meaning happier customers and a better bottom line. 

You can click here to read more actionable insights from AfterShip’s recent eCommerce Returns Report, which leverages their extensive real-life returns data to get to the heart of what makes customers tick. 

2. Product optimization

Return data is a goldmine of information for retailers looking to optimize their product offerings. By using AI and Machine Learning to analyze patterns in returns, such as consistent issues with quality or fit, you can fine-tune your inventory selection, prioritize product improvements, and even collaborate with suppliers to address common problems for customers.

3. An enhanced customer experience

At the end of the day, it's all about the customer experience. When you understand why your customers are returning products, you can proactively address pain points in the shopping journey, from pre-purchase doubts to post-purchase regrets. 

By offering seamless return processes (like effortless doorstep pickup return options, powered by ReturnQueen), personalized recommendations, and responsive customer support, retailers can turn return experiences into opportunities to delight and retain customers.

Customers love the convenience of leaving their returns outside their door for collection

Don’t take every return personally!

We know returns might seem like a headache, but they're also a window into the minds of your customers. By understanding the psychology behind returns, you can unlock a treasure trove of insights that lead to smarter decisions, happier customers, and ultimately, a thriving business. 

So, embrace the returns, dive into the data, and let the psychology of customer behavior guide you to retail success. Remember, understanding your customers is the key to unlocking their hearts – and their wallets. 

If you want to learn more about how you can transform your customers’ returns experience for the better, reach out to us at ReturnQueen today and let's delight your buyers together! 

Plus, click here to learn more about how AfterShip can level up your returns game with its game-changing order tracking and shipment management app for ecommerce businesses.