How To Calculate E-commerce Return Rate?

How to calculate E-commerce return rate?

As an E-commerce seller, no one better than you know the importance of keeping an eye on various business metrics. After all, these metrics offer you a treasure trove of insights that will help improve customer satisfaction, product performance, and overall business health. One such key metric that holds immense significance for your business is the Return Rate. Calculating and analyzing it correctly is an essential step in making informed logistics-related decisions. In this post, we will dive into the ins and outs of E-commerce Return Rate calculation, including why it matters, how to measure it accurately, and how to optimize it. So, grab your calculators, and let’s get started.

What Is The E-commerce Return Rate?

The E-commerce Return Rate is a metric that measures the percentage of online purchases returned by customers. In other words, it highlights the frequency at which customers return the products for various reasons. This value can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of your online store’s customer service, product quality, and overall user experience. A high Return Rate indicates customer dissatisfaction or issues with the quality of your products.

How Do You Calculate Your E-commerce Return Rate?

Let us learn how to calculate your online store’s e-commerce rate, along with a simple example to illustrate the same. 

Return Rate

The return rate can be calculated by dividing the total amount of products returned by the total amount of products sold in a particular period. Its formula is given by –  

E-Commerce Return Rate = (Products Returned/Products Sold) X 100

For instance, if you sold 10,000 products in 1 year while 2000 units were returned, your Return Rate would be: 2000 / 10,000 x 100 = 20%

As you can see in this example, 20% of the products sold in this timeframe were returned. However, this value doesn’t answer why the products are getting returned or how the return process is taking place. Put simply, the Return Rate doesn’t highlight how many of those returns could have been avoided with a simple solution and how many of those returns were actually ‘exchanges’. And that’s why it is important to measure the refund rate and exchange rate of your online store.

Refund rate

As the name suggests, the Refund Rate is the total number of refunds given for the total number of returns in a given period. Its formula is given by – 

E-Commerce Refund Rate = (Refunds Given/Products Returned) X 100

In the same example, if the number of refunds given was 500, then the refund rate would be:

500 / 2000 x 100 = 25%

Many people use Refund Rate and Return Rate interchangeably, which is wrong! As you can see, they are two different metrics representing two different aspects of your E-commerce business.

So what does a Refund Rate indicate about your business? Let us answer this with another example. Imagine you are an online fashion retailer. A customer buys a shirt but returns it due to an incorrect size. They end up exchanging the shirt for another one in the right size. As you can see here, even though this order resulted in a return, it didn’t result in a refund. In other words, it did not create a loss of revenue for your business. 

However, if the customer wanted a refund strictly, it could lead to revenue loss and indicate other issues with the product or your business, such as late delivery, poor product quality, defective product, product not matching the description, etc. All these are serious issues that can also result in loss of customers and loss of reputation. So keep a close eye on your Refund Rate along with your Return Rate. 

Exchange Rate

This is another metric you must measure, along with the Return Rate and Refund Rate, for improved visibility into your returns operations. It is the total number of exchanges made for the total number of returned orders in a given period. Its formula is given by – 

E-Commerce Exchange Rate = (Exchanges Done/Products Returned) X 100

Going back to the same example, if the number of exchanges done was 1000, then the exchange rate would be: 1000 / 2000 x 100 = 50%

After selling, the next best thing for an E-commerce business is exchange. Why? Because it will not result in a loss of revenue (apart from the minor shipping costs). Sometimes, it can even result in an upsell. 

Your exchange rate should always be higher than the refund rate, as it indicates that your brand has been successful in convincing customers to once again try your brand’s product despite not being happy with the original process. It can also indicate that your organization has a seamless exchange process, adding to improved customer experience and brand loyalty. 

What Is The Average E-commerce Return Rate In India? 

E-commerce has seen tremendous growth in India in recent years, with many consumers turning to online shopping due to convenience and accessibility. At the same time, the Return Rates have surged in many categories. But before we look into the different categories where returns are maximum, let us look at the average Return Rates in different channels. 

Average Return Rate Across Selling Channels

  • The average Return Rate in E-commerce stores in India is around 30%
  • E-commerce Return Rates in India can shoot up to 40% during the festive time
  • The Return Rate is only 10% in brick-and-mortar stores in India. 

E-commerce Return Rates by product category

Returns are inevitable in every industry. However, some industries are disproportionately affected. These industries feature products that are highly subjective when it comes to fit and style expectations. Unsurprisingly, clothing, bags, shoes, and accessories take the top spot in the list of most returned online purchases by Indian customers. A staggering 49% of Indian online customers returned clothing, while 39% of customers returned bags and accessories. Only 22% of customers said that they did not return anything back to the online store. 

Most returned online purchases by category in India

What Are The Common Reasons For Product Return?

Product returns are a common challenge in the world of E-commerce, and there are various reasons why customers may choose to return a purchased product. Here are the most obvious ones:

  1. Defective Products: Customers may return products that are damaged, broken, or have missing parts. In most cases, the product gets damaged during shipping due to poor handling and bad packaging. 
  2. Size, Fit, or Color Issues: Customers may return products that do not fit them properly. This is a common return reason in the clothing and footwear categories. Color discrepancies between the received product and product image can also lead to returns.
  3. Buyer’s Remorse: Customers may return products if they change their minds after making a purchase. This is quite common among impulse purchases. Once received, customers realize they do not actually want the product.
  4. Performance Issues: Customers may return products if they experience issues with the quality or performance of the product. It could be malfunctioning electronics, poor durability, or other product-related problems.
  5. Negative after-purchase experience: Customers may return products if they experience poor customer service, unresponsive or unhelpful sellers, or any other negative experience after placing the order. 
  6. Delayed delivery: Customers may return products if the order is delivered after the promised delivery date. Delayed deliveries can lead to frustration, disappointment, and inconvenience, prompting them to return the products. 
  7. Better Pricing from the competition: If the customers can find the same product at a lower price on some other site, they may return the product they purchased from your site. Make sure you are providing a competitive price on your website. 

What Is The Impact Of A High Return Rate?

When your Return Rates soar, it can have far-reaching repercussions on your business, ranging from financial losses to operational difficulties. Let us explore some of the consequences of a high Return Rate in the E-commerce space – 

  1. Impact on finances 

Whenever your customers return products, it results in unwanted costs associated with processing returns. Besides refunding customers’ payments, you may have to bear the shipping charges to return the product to the origin. Also, in most circumstances, the returned products may not be in a resalable condition. This can result in further loss of their original value. In summary, high Return Rates can cause a dent in an E-commerce store’s profitability and cash flow.

  1. Impact on operations

Processing returns is not easy. It is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. You will require additional labor to manage inventory and logistics. Returns can also disrupt your regular inventory management process. Returned products have to be restocked, refurbished (or disposed of), and sold again. High Return Rates can also lead to excess inventory of returned products, locking your capital and warehouse space. 

  1. Impact on customer loyalty

High Return Rates can affect customer satisfaction and loyalty, which will ultimately lead to reduced customer lifetime value. Returns are inconvenient and time-consuming for customers. If they feel like they are constantly returning products, it can negatively impact their overall satisfaction with your brand. Dissatisfied customers are less likely to be loyal and may switch to competitors who offer better quality products and a better experience. 

  1. Impact on reputation

High Return Rates can also negatively impact the reputation of your E-commerce business. Customers who experience repeated returns will convey their frustration in the form of negative reviews. When potential customers go through these reviews, they will view them as a sign of poor product quality, inaccurate product descriptions, or inadequate customer service, all of which can result in a loss of trust and credibility for your brand. 

  1. Impact on environment

Returns can result in additional transportation, packaging waste, and potential product waste if returned items cannot be resold. This can lead to environmental concerns, such as increased carbon emissions and higher waste generation, both of which may affect your business’s sustainability and CSR efforts.

Ways To Reduce The E-commerce Return Rate 

With online shopping becoming the norm, the rate of product returns has drastically increased these days. However, certain proactive measures can be taken to tackle this issue head-on. Here are they:

  1. Provide detailed information

About 23% of returns are due to inaccurate or misleading depictions of the product. Provide detailed specifications and high-quality images for every product so that there are no last-minute surprises. This will drastically reduce the likelihood of returns due to product-related issues. Similarly, to avoid sizing-related returns, provide an easy-to-read size chart for every product. If possible, offer fit recommendations so that customers always pick products in the right size. 

  1. Have a clear and transparent return policy

Around 67% of customers check the returns page before making a purchase. So you must have an easy-to-comprehend return policy for your E-commerce business. It should provide all the crucial information, such as how to initiate a return, possible timelines, and any associated fees or restrictions. A transparent and clear return policy builds trust with your customers and helps set realistic expectations when it comes to product returns.

  1. Perform thorough quality control and inspection

When you implement robust quality control measures in your E-commerce store, it will automatically reduce the number of defective or damaged products being shipped to end customers. If you have the budget, hire a separate team that will thoroughly inspect products   and identify any issues before it reaches the hands of the customers. 

  1. Improve your packaging

Proper packaging is essential to protect your products from damage during transit. So invest in high-quality packaging materials that are appropriate for the type of products being shipped. Also, ensure that products are packaged securely without leaving too much space in between to minimize the risk of damage due to movement.

  1. Offer Excellent Customer Service

Prompt and responsive customer service can help address customer concerns related to products, which will reduce the need for returns. You can provide multiple channels for customer inquiries, such as live chat, email, or phone. You can also leverage technology to provide personalized product recommendations based on customers’ preferences and past purchase history. It will help customers choose the right product for their needs and reduce the likelihood of returns. Also, provide clear usage instructions so that customers use the product the right way, reducing dissatisfaction. 

  1. Analyze Return Data

Continuously analyze return data so you will get valuable insights into return patterns or trends, identifying areas for improvement. Focus mainly on return reasons, product categories with high Return Rates, and common issues faced by customers. This will help you take corrective measures before they start affecting your reputation. 

E-commerce Returns Best Practices To Follow 

By implementing certain best practices, you can effectively address various challenges related to returns, leading to streamlined operations. Here are four such best practices – 

Offer brick-and-mortar returns

Did you know that around 62% of customers are more likely to shop online if they can return an item in-store? So if you own a brick-and-mortar store along with your E-commerce business, offer customers the option to return products in-store. This will be a convenient and hassle-free solution for customers who prefer to return products in person rather than dealing with the hassle of return shipping and repackaging. This strategy can also turn a return into an exchange or an upsell opportunity when the customer sees other products in the store.

Take customer feedback on the reason for the return 

When you understand the reasons behind product returns, you will be able to address the root causes and implement preventive measures. This is possible only if you encourage customers to provide feedback on the reason for their return. You can use channels like online surveys, email follow-ups, or service calls to collect feedback. 

Use returns management software to assist with exchanges

By using returns management software, you can streamline the entire returns process, making it seamless both for your team and your customers. Returns management software can also facilitate exchanges and allow customers to request a replacement or an alternative product easily. This will reduce the need for a return altogether and reduce revenue losses. 

Partner with a 3rd party logistics company experienced in reverse logistics 

3PLs experienced in handling E-commerce returns can efficiently manage the entire returns process, letting you focus on other critical aspects of the business. They can take care of everything from receiving returned items to inspecting, restocking, or disposing of products. You will save time, effort, and resources while ensuring that returns are handled in a timely and professional manner.

As warehousing and order fulfillment partner for E-commerce brands in India, we offer extensive support for reverse logistics. With years of hands-on experience, we fully comprehend the intricate complexities and challenges associated with handling returns. We receive, re-label and pack products with better QC standards and handle refurbishment across different categories. 

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