10 Common Reasons to Return an Item & How to Avoid

Cheryl Song | Nov 30, 2023 | Returns


Returning products is a common problem for online businesses, causing a huge drop in their revenue. 

But why is the number of returning products increasing every year? 

According to a report in 2020, approximately $102 billion worth of products purchased online were returned to retailers. This is alarming!

Returns may occur for a number of reasons; some are genuine, some are fraudulent, some are the result of the merchant’s error, some are the result of the customer’s mistake, and some are related to the delivery service. 

Thus, to reduce the return rate, it is important to pinpoint the underlying reasons and implement appropriate measures. In this article, we’ll discuss these issues in detail and provide possible solutions for each problem.


10 Common Reasons to Return Products 

Here, we’ve listed the 10 most common reasons for returning products, along with effective solutions to prevent such situations from occurring in the first place.

1. The product doesn’t fit.

The first and most common reason for returning an item is the fitting issue with the product. This type of problem usually occurs in the case of fashion products, such as clothing, shoes, jewelry, and so on. Apart from this, home furnishing items, such as furniture, rugs, mattresses, etc., may also have fitting issues. 

 A recent survey indicates that 70% of consumers return products because they are not the right fit. Thus, this is undoubtedly a serious issue, and every company needs to take the appropriate steps to minimize these problems from occurring.

How do you solve this issue?

  • Accurate Sizing Chart

As the root of this return reason is improper size, you must include a comprehensive sizing chart in the product description. Mention the proper instructions for taking the measurements so that customers don’t make mistakes on their end. 

For clothing & shoes, mention the measurements for the bust, waist, hip, heel height, footbed shape, brand’s size guidance, and other international standards available. 

For other items, mention the length, width, height, circumference, and other measurement points.

  • Offer Exchanges or Replacements

Refunding customers for their returned products is a great loss for a business. But to minimize the loss, you can introduce an exchange or replacement policy for returned items. 

Giving customers the option to exchange items that do not fit well for something else enhances your relationship with them because it shows that they are happy with the quality of your product. Also, there is a chance they will stick around as regular clients.


2. The product doesn’t match the description.

The return reason for which you cannot blame customers is a mismatch between the original product and the advertised product. This type of return issue is common in the case of clothing, bags, accessories, electronic devices, or cosmetic products. E-commerce merchants often use vague product descriptions where the information regarding the size, color, pattern, or quality is either missing or mentioned exaggeratedly. 

As customers rely on product images and descriptions when purchasing online, it is important to maintain accuracy. It helps to reduce the number of returns while also retaining customer trust in the brand. 

How do you solve this issue?

  • Use high-quality images with detailed description
  • Do not use fake product photos
  • Provide images from different perspectives (360-degree shots, macro shots, mannequin or lifestyle images, etc.)
  • Avoid misinformation and stick to the facts
  • Mention appropriate color names for products that have color variations
  • If the texture is an important factor for a product, make sure to describe it to make the customers feel the material
  • Mention any warnings, drawbacks, or specific information that can make customers return the items


3. The product doesn’t work as expected.

Customers request a return when the product doesn’t match their expectations. This type of return situation mostly occurs in the case of products like clothing, medicines, and cosmetics. 

For example, makeup items such as makeup, concealer, or lipstick come in a variety of shades that are appropriate for different skin tones. So it’s common that the product shades shown in images may not be the perfect ones for every customer’s skin tone. 

In addition to that, not all clothing items may fit perfectly on every body structure. The size may not be an issue, but the style may make the dress appear unflattering. 

How do you solve this issue?

  • Offer trial packs for cosmetic items
  • Implement the virtual try-on technology
  • In the product description, describe each feature and specification of the product in detail
  • Provide a review section where customers can learn from each other’s experiences
  • To avoid confusion among customers, include a FAQ section with the most common queries about the product


4. The product was damaged or defective.

Another valid reason for a return is a defective or damaged product. Most shipping-related damages happen to delicate and fragile goods. This can be partial or total damage. And there’s no doubt that customers will choose to return and claim refunds for such items rather than keep them with their hard-earned money.

However, receiving defective items is not always associated with poor shipping. Customers may end up with malfunctioning or expired products as a result of a failure to thoroughly inspect products prior to shipping or improper packaging. 

How do you solve this issue?

  • Use strong boxes that are less prone to water damage
  • Boxes slightly larger than the products should be used for stuffing cushion materials, such as bubble wraps, foam sheets, paper pads, etc.
  • Carefully inspect items before shipping to verify they function properly
  • Check your inventory regularly to remove non-functional and expired items
  • Ensure the ambient temperature and humidity so that the products stay in good condition
  • Collaborate with a reputable shipping company to ensure the safety of your shipment
  • To minimize your loss, use shipping services that offer shipping insurance


5. The merchant shipped the wrong item.

Visualize this scenario: You order a cocktail dress, only to discover that you have received sleepwear upon opening your package. Would you not be upset about ruining your plans for your special day and returning the item right away? 

Of course, you would, and this is a common reason for returns, even for renowned e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, and so on.

This type of pick-and-pack error during the fulfillment process occurs from time to time when there is an excessive workload (during the holiday season), a lack of staff, or simply due to staff negligence. Also, when products have similar color or pattern variants, customers are likely to receive the wrong items. 

How do you solve this issue?

  • While packing the items, double-check the order list
  • Ensure that your fulfillment staff are well-trained
  • Make the returning process easier for customers 
  • Provide satisfactory customer service 
  • Offer both refund and replacement options
  • Outsource the fulfillment process to a reliable third-party logistics (3PL) provider


6. The customer doesn’t like the item.

Customers often return products when they don’t like them after getting them on their hands. This can happen for many reasons, such as the customer making an impulsive purchase or the product being of poor quality. 

While poor quality may be a personal preference, if returns are made frequently for this reason, it is certain that you need to re-evaluate the language of your product description so that customers do not set their expectations too high and become disappointed later.

How do you solve this issue?

  • Use the real image of the product
  • Be transparent about your products’ quality
  • Provide a clear and concise product description
  • Keep the review option enabled so customers can understand the true value of the product from other users
  • Include product videos to help customers see the product from different perspectives and set reasonable expectations for the item
  • Present your products to the customer in such a way that they know what they are purchasing
  • Mention the return policies clearly, outlining the reasons for which the return request is acceptable


7. The customer purchased the wrong item.

Purchasing the wrong item is one of the most common return reasons when customers do a bulk amount of shopping. When the list of products in the cart is long and contains similar packaging or product names, it is natural to select unwanted items without realizing it, resulting in this type of error.

Also, this type of issue occurs while buying gifts for others, as the person receiving the gift may not like or require the item.

How do you solve this issue?

  • Use precise product descriptions and make the titles bold to highlight
  • Provide high-quality product images from multiple perspectives to make the visuals distinctive and comprehensive
  • Make double-checking the order list mandatory for order placement
  • Offer replacement options along with the return 
  • Set up a live customer support system to assist customers with their inquiries or to cancel mistaken orders before they are shipped
  • Mention the return policies clearly, including the time frame within which items can be returned
  • Give customers options for buying gift cards instead of gift items


8. The customer changed his/her mind.

Some customers are prone to shopping on the spur of the moment. Lucrative advertisements convince them to add the products to their cart and purchase them. However, by the time they receive the product, they realize they no longer need it or simply do not want to keep it. 

Apart from this, customers can change their minds and request a return if they find a better alternative. For example, the customer ordered a Barbie pink outfit, but the color is a bit darker, and the buyer prefers a baby pink one after receiving the item.

How do you solve this issue?

Although you can’t do anything to stop your customers from changing their minds, you can take the following steps to reduce the number of returns.

  • Provide clear information from your end

Write a detailed product description that includes the materials, size, dimension, color name, and code for accuracy. For textures, use metaphors to make customers feel the items. In short, ensure that the visuals and descriptions you provide are sufficient for customers to understand what they are purchasing.

  • Mention detailed return guidelines

Create a well-defined return policy guideline in which you must specifically mention the conditions that allow for returns, including the restocking fee and the timeframe within which the products are eligible for returns. 

Since many customers do not bother to check the policies, make sure that reading the return guidelines is mandatory before confirming their order.


9. The customer was wardrobing.

Wardrobing is a fraudulent activity where customers purchase a product and return it after only using it once or for a short time. This is a common practice among many customers, especially for items such as special clothing, shoes, bags, electronic items, kitchen equipment, or medical devices that aren’t going to be used for a long time. 

How do you solve this issue?

  • Put tags where consumers must take them off before using them
  • Mention clearly in the return guideline that the products must be unused and returned back to you in original packaging
  • Offer customers store credit instead of refunds 

Moreover, for the customer who returns a large number of items, you can keep track of them and include them in the “Blacklist” using the Parcel Panel Returns & Exchange app. This app also allows Shopify Merchants to set a return request limit. As a result, customers can return a certain number of products per order.


10. The delivery was too late.

Late deliveries are one of the most common reasons for returning an item, especially when the products were ordered for a special occasion or purpose. For example, someone ordered something for their birthday, anniversary, or Christmas, but they received their product after that event had passed. 

In such cases, customers return the item because either they no longer need it or they have already purchased the same item elsewhere. There could be a variety of reasons for delayed deliveries, some of which are unavoidable, while others are due to the irresponsibility of a delivery service.

How do you solve this issue?

  • To reduce returns for this reason, you can display the estimated delivery date on each product page. 
  • More importantly, you should offer a fast and reliable shipping service with a tracking feature. Customers can use the tracking number to get real-time shipping information and be aware of the status of their shipment. 


Improve Your Returns Experience with ParcelPanel

Return management can be difficult for businesses that have to deal with a large number of returns on a regular basis. However, with the help of the Parcel Panel Returns & Exchange Shopify app, returning and exchanging orders are hassle-free and efficient. It is one of the best return management apps on the market, with the most satisfied customers. 

The app offers some amazing features, including:

  • Self-serve returns center
  • Collect & analyze return reasons
  • Set return rules to prevent fraud
  • Incentivize exchanges/refunds to store credits

Shopify merchants can automatically create a return page through this app, where customers can submit return requests and track their progress 24/7. Also, the app gives the merchants absolute control over returns. They can add return eligibility rules, set multiple return addresses, and integrate with the reverse logistics partners. Moreover, to prevent fraud, there are blocklist and return request limit options. 

In short, Parcel Panel is a one-stop post-purchase solution provider. With ParcelPanel, eCommerce merchants can get comprehensive services for tracking shipments from over 1,100 carriers worldwide, as well as managing returns. 


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