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Thought Leadership & Enablement
December 8, 2022

How Ecommerce Brands Can Reduce Returns and Their Carbon Footprint

Ecommerce has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, as more and more consumers turn to online shopping for their needs. This shift has been driven in part by the ease and convenience of eCommerce, as well as the wide range of products and services that are now available online.

Brittany Gulla
Director of Growth Marketing

Ecommerce has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, as more and more consumers turn to online shopping for their needs. This shift has been driven in part by the ease and convenience of eCommerce, as well as the wide range of products and services that are now available online.

However, eCommerce stores tend to have a high rate of returns. In fact, eCommerce returns are estimated to cost businesses upwards of $300 billion each year.

There are a number of reasons why eCommerce returns are so high. One reason is that it can be difficult to gauge the size or fit of a product when shopping online. Another reason is that customers may simply change their minds after making a purchase.

Whatever the reason for eCommerce returns, they can have a significant impact on a business and on our planet.

So, how can eCommerce brands reduce the number of returns they receive and therefore reduce their carbon footprint?

Pay Attention to the Product Descriptions on Your ECommerce Website

Make sure your website is a reflection of the experience you want the consumer to have with your product. Use high quality images and descriptions on the product pages of your website. This helps set expectations for what the customer can expect from the product. 

Ecommerce product descriptions are an important factor in reducing returns. By providing accurate, detailed information about a product, customers can make informed purchase decisions that are less likely to result in a return.

Some tips for writing effective eCommerce product descriptions:

- Use clear and concise language

- Focus on the key features of the product

- Include size, color, and other relevant details

- Be honest about what the product can and cannot do

- Use high-quality images to show off the product

- Offer customer support in case there are any questions about the product

Don’t forget to look elsewhere in the customer journey for helpful tips on improving your product descriptions as well. These tips can help you write eCommerce product descriptions that will reduce the number of returns you receive.

1. Pay attention to customer feedback. If you're getting a lot of negative feedback about a particular product, then it's time to make some changes to the way you're describing it.

2. Use customer service interactions to your advantage. If you're hearing a lot of questions about a product, then that's an indication that your description isn't clear enough. Make sure to answer these questions in your description so that customers know what they're getting.

3. Monitor social media for negative comments. If you see customers complaining about a product on social media, take note and make changes accordingly.

4. Use first-party data to improve your product descriptions overall. By paying attention to all of the above, you can get a better understanding of what your customers are looking for in a product description. Use this knowledge to improve your descriptions and reduce returns overall.

Utilize First Party Data with a Product Match Quiz

The best eCommerce sites are ones that prioritize recreating the in-person experience you get by visiting a brick and mortar store. 

This starts with asking your consumers what their preferences and intentions are. Brands can then use first party data from the responses to provide personalized recommendations to help guide shoppers through your site to the products that are a best fit for them. 

Ultimately, eCommerce brands will see an increase in customer lifetime value, and a reduction in returns & carbon footprint when they take the time to understand their customer and provide them recommendations rather than pushing them to add to cart as quickly as possible.

As stated by Fast Company, Product Match Quizzes “are an example of a new technological tool that can easily create this experience for users. By talking the shopper through the process with a few easy multiple-choice questions - the product finder can, with a little help from the shopper, create a more customized recommendation. That in turn makes the online ordering experience much less stressful for the consumer. Not only do they find the right shoe that fits, they also don’t have to order five different pairs to test out (ultimately resulting in returns for the ones that don’t make the cut). Which would automatically lower the number of returns.”

How to Handle Returns Effectively and Sustainably

Although we can put these things in place in order to mitigate the number of returns eCommerce brands see over time, at the end of the day returns are still going to happen. 

When they do it’s best to be up to date on returns best practices so that the experience can be seamless, or dare we say, enjoyable for both the brand and the consumer, and so that the returns process can be as minimally wasteful as possible: 

Reduce the Long-term Environmental Impact of Your Online Returns With More Efficient Returns Management

We recognize that despite your best efforts to minimize returns, on average 15-20% of sales will still result in a return, and this number will increase during the Holiday return season. Processing a high volume of returns will cost you plenty of time and money, not to mention a high volume of CO2 emissions due to shipping items from warehouses to customers and back. Returns are well documented to be a tremendous cause of waste in the retail world, but there are ways you can minimize the environmental footprint of your online returns with omni-channel reverse logistics providers:

  1. Use a return management solution with a drop-off network 

Partnering with a return management solution that offers a network of drop-off kiosks is the first step to reducing CO2 emissions. Encouraging your customers to take advantage of conveniently located drop-off kiosks will reduce your return shipping expenses and your carbon footprint. Items can be returned without any labels or packaging materials, and some partners will also be able to ensure that returned items are handled end-to-end in order to be prepared for you in ready-to-sell condition. This means they are sorted, inspected, repacked, and batch-shipped via shared transportation networks - reducing the waste generated from individual packages in transit.

  1. Evaluate your product and shipping packaging

You can reduce a lot of waste just by adjusting how your business ships and receives products. Every year, 3 billion trees are pulped to produce 241 million tons of paper-based packaging. Opting for environmentally friendly packaging, reducing the size of boxes, and introducing package-free and label-free return options will optimize your environmental efforts and reduce shipping emissions.

Label-free and package-free options not only enable your customers to enjoy fast and convenient returns for exchange, store credit or refund, but your brand will also reduce the printing and packaging waste that comes from the typical return process. It also increases convenience for your customers, as they will no longer have to worry about printing out labels or finding a box or bag to package their returns. 

  1. Reduce carbon emissions with micro forward fulfillment 

What if you could take returned goods from the buyer, inspect them and repack them for delivery to the next closest customer without those items ever having to go back to your warehouse? This type of micro fulfillment creates efficiencies by fulfilling new orders from ready-to-sell returned supply. It reduces the environmental burden of returns that would otherwise need to travel across borders (even continents!) unnecessarily.

Instead of shipping all products back to your central fulfillment location, return solutions like ReturnBear can consolidate and hold your inventory across their network, shipping products to new customers faster and more cost-effectively. 

Save time and money this holiday season. CLICK HERE to learn more and chat with an expert today!

Brittany Gulla
Director of Growth Marketing

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