What are the main two reasons customers return products?

Product returns are a plague for ecommerce stores and managing them can destroy your profitability as a merchant, so you need to focus on ways to reduce the amount of orders returned to your store.  The most common causes of returns fit into two general buckets:

  • Personal Preference: Many of these reasons for returns are “preference based” where the customer just doesn’t like the fit, style, or they simply change their mind on the product.
  • Missed Expectations: Returns because of misunderstandings where product wasn’t as expected from the product information (images, description, defective product, etc.)

When it comes to reasons based on personal preference, you want to optimize that but also realize that there is some of that which is out of your control.   The “Missed Expectations” category is something you can immediately improve and can improve your return rate.

Aligning Expectations with Reality

When you’re doing person to person sales, there’s a step in the process called “Sales Qualification” which ensures that the product is the right fit for the customer that is considering it.   It typically comes in the form of a number of proactive questions that are asked in order to ensure alignment.

Ecommerce merchants don’t want to have every customer answer a series of questions, but you can passively qualify your own sales to ensure that the product is a great fit for what the customer is expecting to receive and help ensure they won’t return it.  As the customer is browsing the product page, this is done through the following means:

  • Product visual representations (images, rotating 360 degree images, videos, etc.)
  • Product details and specifications (specs lists, spec diagrams, etc.)
  • Product questions & answers (granular answers filling in all other pre-purchase queries)

The product visual representations, description, and specifications are common to almost every ecommerce merchant.  Those should be focused on and optimized, in order to make sure customer expectations are appropriately set on what they’ll be receiving.

What most of the largest ecommerce sites have done but many smaller ecommerce businesses have yet to integrate, is the product question and answer functionality on their product page.


The Importance of Product Q&A for Ecommerce Merchants

There is a balance in providing all the details about a product, while still making your product information accessible and easy to find by each individual customer.  This is where product page Q&A shines to ensure that each customer is able to easily inquire about the product details and information they’re looking for to not only convert, but to also feel satisfied with the product and not return it.

You’ll notice that Amazon presents it’s product Q&A just as prominently on the page as the reviews, see here:

You’ll also notice that before you get to the product description or specifications, Amazon has a “Have a question?” call to action as seen here:

The reason for this is because it provides a very easy way for a customer to qualify that the product is going to meet their needs and expectations, then moving them to a confident sale.   This opportunity for engagement is essential to the product pages on Amazon, and it needs to be an important part of the experience for your shoppers as well.


Convert and Attract Qualified Customers

There are additional benefits to adding Q&A to your product pages above and beyond ensuring that the product matches expectations and reduces the chances of returns, it also increases your conversions of the right types of customers and attracts other qualified customers through search traffic.

  • Converting More Qualified Customers: We see that up to 75% of questions answered through Answerbase convert to a sale, as the answers confirm that the product is a fit and they purchase.
  • More Qualified Customers from Search: Customers with a similar customer profile who are asking similar product questions on Google are lead to the Q&A content on merchant’s stores to purchase.  This accounts for the average lifetime value of customers coming in through Google to product Q&A content is up to 2x higher than normal Google traffic.

Answerbase has case studies where customers have increased their organic search traffic year over year and those visitors have a higher lifetime value of traditional search traffic, as the questions are asked  by more qualified customers who are ripe to purchase.

Maximize Product Understanding to Minimize Returns

Ensuring that your customers have an easy way to engage and confirm that they understand the products they are considering helps you convert more qualified customers and reduce returns based on any misunderstandings.   As you ensure customers have every opportunity to come to an understanding of the product they’ll receive, and they’ll be excited about keeping and using the product as opposed to considering a return.

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