Ecommerce returns are a normal—nay, EXPECTED—part of the online shopping process. So we put together a list of over 25 ecommerce return statistics to help you understand the landscape so that you can plan for a better return experience for your customers, and for your business.
Ordering online has its pros and cons. While it saves customers time, they can’t always tell if the product will fit, work or be what they want until it arrives. That’s why online retailers frequently see product returns. But are there other reasons customers return products, and how does it impact online retail sellers?
The ecommerce return statistics we’ve compiled for you will answer all your questions about the online purchase returns by company, category, and consumer behavior. Therefore, keep reading to find out more about ecommerce product returns, along with other interesting facts and stats.
Key Ecommerce Returns Statistics (Editor’s Choice)
- The average online purchase return rate is 18.1%
- Only 49% of retailers offer free return shipping.
- 80.2% of returns happen because the product is damaged or broken.
- The average return rate on Amazon is between 5% and 15%
- In 2021, 26% of returned products in the US were clothing items.
- Over 60% of people will read through a return policy before purchasing.
- 30% of online shoppers intentionally overbuy and then return the items they don’t want.
- 62.58% of online customers expect retailers to allow for returns within 30 days of purchase.
General Ecommerce Return Statistics
1. The average ecommerce return rate is 18.1%
Return rates are one of the most common metrics that retailers track in ecommerce. Return rates are typically calculated as the percentage of all products sold that are returned within a specified time period.
The average return rate for ecommerce sales is 18.1%, while the return rate of products bought in brick-and-mortar stores is 8-10%.
In other words, ecommerce product return rates can be two to three times higher than in physical stores. In addition to that, the average return rate for “expensive” products is 50% and 30% for holiday ecommerce.
A good return rate is around 10%, while a poor return rate is above 60%. Return rates can be affected by many factors, including shipping costs and costs for returning the product, the product’s quality, how well the customer was able to preview it, how easy it is to return, and how much effort the retailer puts into preventing returns.
When you buy something online, chances are pretty good that you’re going to send part of your order back. And that’s not just your problem—that’s a problem for online retailers too.
The thing is, there are a lot of reasons that this happens. If a product doesn’t fit or looks different from the way it looked in the photo, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re going to send it back. And when a company offers free shipping and returns, it can be tempting to buy clothes in multiple sizes with the intention of returning everything except the one you want… even if it means sending two-thirds of your order back!
There are lots of reasons that someone might want to return an item they bought online (or in store), and some of them aren’t related to the product at all. This is why companies are always working on improving their shipping processes to reduce damages.
2. 49% of online retailers offer free return shipping.
Statistics regarding the ecommerce retail return rates reveal 79% of shoppers expect return shipping to be free, but only 49% of online retailers offer such service. Of course, an easy return process is essential to almost every customer because they buy products they haven’t experienced or tested.
3. Ecommerce returns increased by 70% in 2020 compared to the year before.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the ecommerce product return rate in 2020 was up by a shocking 70% compared to 2019, and the reasons for that are still unknown. That’s why it’s vital to understand why customers return products in the first place.
4. Online returns doubled in 2021 and were the main driver of returns overall.
Ecommerce returns statistics point out that 2021 was a rough year for online retailers because of the spike in product return rates. The influence of the coronavirus pandemic was still very strong that year, and people were more likely to purchase goods online. As a result, many of those items were returned.
5. 80.2% of product returns happen because the item is damaged or broken.
Many things can happen to a package during shipment, so ecommerce product returns can’t be entirely prevented. While the reason for 80.2% of product returns is receiving a damaged or broken item, 64.2% of returns happen because an item doesn’t match the description.
6. 7% of products are returned because they’re delivered late.
People have gotten more impatient when the shipping time is in question. Still, only 7% of online purchases are returned because they’re delivered late. Another reason for return is poor value, which leads to 7.5% of returned items.
7. In 2021, retailers lost $218 billion due to ecommerce returns.
(Multi Channel Merchant)
Ecommerce return rate statistics based on a survey conducted by Appriss Retail revealed that, although both retail and ecommerce product return rates were higher than in 2019, many companies saw it as an opportunity to connect with their customers and receive feedback.
Of course, these high return rates can lead to some interesting consequences for retailers. For some retailers, losing that much money to returns can mean the difference between profit and loss for the entire year—or even for several years in a row.
Some companies have begun experimenting with programs that allow customers to try on new products at home before deciding whether or not to keep them. Some offer free shipping on returns—in hopes of preventing customers from choosing to buy from another brand that does offer that perk. Others offer higher discounts to customers who opt out of their ability to return items.
While none of these approaches is guaranteed to fix this issue, it does show that retailers are starting to take action against this growing problem.
8. The ecommerce segment is forecasted to account for 24.5% of global retail sales by 2025.
While ecommerce accounted for around 17.8% of retail sales in 2020, that percentage is expected to increase by 6.7% between 2020 and 2025. This statistic proves that online sales play a significant role in retailing and shouldn’t be disregarded.
Statistics About Ecommerce Return Rates by Company
9. 34% of Amazon shoppers returned an item because the size, color, or fit was wrong.
The Amazon return percentage depends on the reason for product returns. For example, 21% of Amazon shoppers returned an item because it was broken, damaged, or no longer functional. On the contrary, 4% intended to return it even before the purchase.
10. 10% of Amazon shoppers returned an item because they didn’t like it.
As already mentioned, there are many more reasons for product returns apart from wrong size or color.
Apparently, 10% of Amazon customers returned an item solely because they didn’t like it, while 9% changed their mind, and 5% returned the package because it arrived late (or didn’t arrive in time).
11. Amazon lists 72 official reasons for a consumer’s return.
According to ecommerce return stats, Amazon lists 72 different reasons for return and you can’t return an item to Amazon without stating why you’re doing so. That’s a great form of feedback and every online retailer should implement similar practices.
12. The average Amazon return rate ranges between 5% and 15%
Even though the average return rate on Amazon is between 5% and 15%, the return rate for some categories, like clothing and consumer electronics, can be as high as 40%. Amazon has a relatively lenient return policy, which can hinder its profitability. Nevertheless, they can block a person’s account if they return too many items.
13. 61% of customers find it easy to return an item they bought on Amazon.
Of the Amazon customers surveyed, 61% found the process of returning a product to be easy. This is good news for Amazon users, who can be confident that they won’t have to go through too much trouble if they ever need to send something back.
14. Shopify reports a 40% decrease in product returns from 3D visualization.
Statistics regarding ecommerce return rate reveal that augmented reality and 3D product visualization drastically improve user experience. Customers can examine items better and therefore are more likely to choose exactly what they want.
Apart from Shopify, SeekXR saw a 25% decrease in returns thanks to AR-guided purchases.
15. Returnado, a Swedish start-up helps online retailers by converting 30% of returns into exchanges.
Returnado manages the returns on behalf of various clothing brands. It asks customers to upload a photo of the product they want to return so that brands can examine its condition.
After that, they decide if the item should be repaired, returned, partially refunded, or disposed of locally. Thanks to this approach, 30% of returns are turned into exchanges.
Stats on Ecommerce Return Rate by Category
16. Clothing has the highest return rate in ecommerce.
I am sure you have returned some items to an online retailer before. Maybe it was the wrong color. Maybe it didn’t fit right. Maybe it just looked a little different than you expected when it arrived. Or maybe you just changed your mind, but whatever the reason, you have contributed to this statistic.
There is no question as to what product has the highest return rate in ecommerce—clothing! Clothing tops the list with a whopping 26% return rate. Nearly nine out of ten U.S. consumers say they’ve returned clothing items at some point.
What about the lowest return rates? You guessed it: stationeries, hobby supplies, and pet products are the lowest returned items when shopped online.
17. In 2021, only 8% of books, games, music, and movies purchased online were returned in the US.
It appears that books, music, games, movies were some of the least returned items in 2020. In addition, 9% of cosmetics and body care products were returned. That’s because people from gaming communities and those who take good care of their health spend more time picking the right product.
18. The average online shopping return rate can be as high as 50% in certain apparel markets.
Shopify’s Fashion Industry Report reveals that the average apparel ecommerce return rate can even reach up to 50% in some apparel markets. Furthermore, only 50% of such returns can be resold. Other clothing items are typically sent to landfills, making the fashion industry the world’s second-biggest polluter.
Statistics Regarding Online Shoppers’ Behavior
19. More than 60% of consumers read through the return policy before purchasing.
Online shopping trends statistics point out that over 60% of online shoppers will read a return policy before buying a product. Therefore, companies need to make it clear and straightforward. Otherwise, customers will lose trust and probably never buy from them again (or at all).
20. 58% of shoppers want a hassle-free “no questions asked” return policy.
According to various stats about ecommerce return policies, almost 60% of online shoppers want a no-hassle return policy. That means that if a customer isn’t satisfied, they can return an unopened package for a full refund and no shipping cost or restocking fee.
21. 84% of UK online shoppers wouldn’t buy from a retailer again after a bad returns experience.
As Klarna’s survey of 2,000 UK consumers points out, over eight in ten customers would turn their back on a retailer if they had a bad returns experience, while 82% claimed that retailers need to work on their returns capabilities.
It seems that shoppers have more expectations than before when it comes to product returns.
22. Almost two-thirds of shoppers are more likely to shop online if they can return their purchases to a physical store.
It’s not surprising that 62% of shoppers are more likely to buy products online if they can return the purchase at the physical store.
Of course, it’s easy to understand why a shopper would be more likely to make an online purchase if they knew they could return it to a physical location. When we think about our own shopping habits, most of us can picture at least one instance where we’ve been disappointed with an item we received in the mail and wished we could just go to the store and exchange or return it.
This statistic helps to illustrate how important the ability to return an item purchased online to a brick and mortar store is, especially in light of other survey results that show many people have had issues with returning items bought online. Who wants to waste their time on the phone or spend money shipping an item back if they can just drop it off at a store?
Shoppers who have trouble returning items are less likely to make purchases from the website again.
23. 30% of consumers intentionally over-purchase and then return unwanted items.
One of the worst things you can do as an online shopper is to deliberately buy more products than you need just to choose which item you like the most.
Sadly, ecommerce return statistics show that a striking 19% of people admitted to purchasing many versions of the same product and made up their mind when they arrived.
24. 62.58% of online customers expect retailers to allow for returns within 30 days of purchase.
According to the ReBOUND Returns Consumer Survey, 62.58% of people who shop online expect retailers to allow for returns within 30 days after purchase.
On the contrary, 23.31% would expect it after up to 14 days. Interestingly, 0.56% of customers expect retailers to allow for returns after up to 365 days.
25. The majority of ecommerce returns occur during the month of January.
You’re not the only one with a January blues story. The first month of the year is actually the most popular month for ecommerce returns.
Almost every year, January brings a lot of stress for ecommerce retailers. That’s because the holiday season—that time of the year when we’re all supposed to be joyous, merry, and holly-jolly—actually brings a lot of returns with it.
If you’re trying to return something online, and you’re having a tough time getting through, there’s a good reason for it! Everyone else is trying to do the same thing.
Many people take the break between Christmas and New Year’s Day to clean out their houses and figure out what they want to keep from their holiday gifts. After all, who has room for two crockpots?
It’s also harder than ever to try things on before you buy them. Retailers are struggling to stay afloat in our digital economy, and they’re introducing new ways to get rid of unsold inventory by offering better deals, like free shipping and returns. As a result, it’s easier than ever to order something online without checking if it fits first. When it shows up in your mailbox looking like a muumuu on your frame, returning it is the only option.
What percentage of products are returned?
Between 20% and 30% of online purchases are returned, while only 8% to 10% of products bought in brick-and-mortar stores are returned. Of course, one of the pros of buying in physical stores is that you can examine an item and try it out before you buy it.
According to the statistics, some of the main reasons why consumers return products they’ve bought online are receiving damaged products, wrong items, or products that don’t match the description.
How do you calculate ecommerce return rate?
Calculating an ecommerce return rate is relatively simple. It’s a measure of how many items were returned in a specific period versus the total number of sold units. Here’s an example:
5000 (returned units) / 15,000 (units sold within six months) x100 = A return rate of 33%
Still, calculating your return rate isn’t enough to know why returns happen. You should also consider taking your refund rate and exchange into account. You must find out why returns are happening to achieve effective returns optimization.
Does AR really reduce ecommerce returns?
Yes. For instance, SeekXR reports a 25% decrease in product returns from AR-guided purchases. That’s because augmented reality features help many customers save time and pick the right product.
Also, 40% of shoppers would pay a higher price for any product if they were allowed to preview it by augmented reality. As augmented reality helps customers examine preview product variations like style or color differences, they’re less likely to return the purchased product.
What is the average return rate at Amazon?
The average product return rate at Amazon is between 5% and 15%. Still, the return rate depends on the category. For instance, the return rate for some categories, such as clothing and electronics, can get as high as 40%.
Apart from that, offering “returnless refunds” has become popular since the pandemic because sellers want to avoid wasting money and time on managing, shipping, and processing returns.
What percentage of products are bought online?
Ecommerce accounted for about 19.6% of retail sales worldwide in 2021, and it’s estimated that the online segment will most likely make up close to 25% of global retail sales by 2025. Online shopping has undoubtedly become more prevalent than ever before, especially in India, Spain, and China.
According to various ecommerce return statistics, customers are less likely to order online because they’re afraid of a complicated return process. Therefore, investing in making product returns easier can increase sales.
As you look over the data above, ask yourself: How can I use these statistics to make my business stronger?
With all the statistics, the truth is clear: Returns are a part of doing business. The question becomes how you handle them, and how you turn them into positive experiences for your customers.
There are so many reasons for returning a product bought online, regardless of category or retail seller. For example, the customer might have received the wrong size or color of the product, or it could be damaged or broken during shipment.
Whatever the reason may be, product returns are costly for sellers and time-consuming for buyers. Therefore, it’s better to avoid them. Luckily, things like detailed product descriptions with pictures, augmented reality, and 3D visualization can help customers examine items better, which leads to fewer returns.
We hope that these stats will provide you with some key insights into how ecommerce returns work, how they drive sales, and how customers feel about them.
In addition to being a customer-facing tool, an effective return policy is also an internal one. It allows your team to better understand customers’ needs, and gives you insight into what’s working and what isn’t.
With that, we have reached the end of our article. We hope this has been useful for you!
Best of luck!