Paul Rouke
Founder & Director of Optimisation
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  • Conversion Rate Optimisation

12th Mar 2014

4 min

A recent discussion on #EcomChat focused on the importance of delivery, shipping and returns for retailers. A few people had mentioned how many brands, particularly catalogue retailers, can have upwards of 50% returns rates (not great for accurately reporting on your monthly revenue from GA eh!).

After conducting 100’s of hours of user research for our multichannel retail clients and 13 years experience in the industry, there are some key learning’s I feel worth sharing to help retailers get a handle on returns.

Here’s 11 Ways Retailers Can Influence Returns Rates

1. Size guides

Ensure your sizes and the size guides used are what’s expected by the visitors. UK women expect to see standard UK sizes e.g. 8, 10, 12, 14 etc. Next shows women’s shoes in continental sizes only, with no information on the product page as to what these sizes equate to in UK sizing terms. Will customers find out elsewhere and come back to purchase or just leave the site? It’s a risk Next doesn’t need to take. It should be providing UK sizes for UK visitors.


Next Size Guide

2. Link to the relevant size guide

Provide a link to the relevant part of your usable size guide, right next to the size selector on product pages, or as an overlay or simple lightbox window.

Here’s a good example from Schuh. Next, take note.


Size Guide Ecommerce to reduce returns rates

3. Encourage accounts

Typically, account holders have more brand affiliation and thus more likely to make repeat purchases. This helps customer’s better understand the sizes of the clothes from this brand.

Encourage first time customers to create an account with you at the end of their transaction. However, there is a balance between encouraging registration and reducing abandonment.

4. Include info on the size of models in product images

Provide visitors with the size of the model and the size of the product they are wearing so visitors get an accurate understanding of the fit/flow of the garment.

Here’s a good example from Oasis:


Oasis Size Guide Best Practice for Ecommerce

5. Allow customer feedback

Give customers the opportunity to provide feedback on the fit of the product, as one of a few different review attributes such as value, durability or others that suit your products.

Schuh customers help other shoppers by commenting on fit;

Schuh Comments best Practice for online Retailers

6. Fitting tools

Consider creating fit-guide tools such as the “fit visualiser” on ASOS or videos on sizing like those created for the Speedo Sculpture range to help visitors understand which size will be best for them.


Asos Fit Visualiser Online Fashion Retailers helping to reduce returns rates

7. Get feedback from customers returning goods

Ensure you encourage visitors to not only specify the reason they are returning an item but also to provide feedback which can qualify the reason more than just ‘size not suitable’.

8. Look at products with high returns rates

Identify particular products which have high return rates to understand if there are potential quality issues which can be addressed.

9. Use video

For fashion products, if budget permits, provide short videos of the product being worn to bring the fit and flow of the garment to life.

Net A Porter does this:


Net A Porter Retailer Best Practice for reducing return rates

10. Good product imagery

Ensure photographs accurately represent the quality of the product and show all important elements. 360 degree views can really help on this.

Here, Schuh provides the 360 view, as well as a range of images:

Schuh Ecommerce Best Practice for reducing return rates

11. Provide free returns

Finally, more as food for thought, consider the potential resentment from customers if you don’t provide a flexible, free returns policy, as your competitors are almost guaranteed to be doing so already.


Clarks Reducing Return Rates



First and foremost it is the retailer’s responsibility to allow visitors to make a well informed decision when ordering, what will hopefully be the correct size rather than ordering two different sizes.

Questions for you

  • What techniques have been successful in reducing your returns rate?
  • Has the investment in technology aimed at reducing your returns rate delivered ROI?
  • What % of your returns are from multi-size purchase behaviour versus single size purchase behaviour?
  • What does the future hold for retailers with potentially damaging returns rates?

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