Merchandise returns cost retailers in the United States billions of dollars every year and are becoming an increasingly challenging problem—so much so that in 2022, the cost of returns rose by 7.4%, to $817 billion, more than triple the cost from a decade ago. 

According to a recent survey, clothing, accessories, and shoes rank among the most returned products online. But why are consumers sending back purchased items? Here’s a breakdown of the top return reasons.

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Top reasons for returning an item

A study of the top reasons for returns shows that 81% of consumers send back items purchased online because they are either damaged or defective. This represents more than four out of every five consumers and is the leading factor for returns.

The second most popular reason for returns has to do with the product’s fit. As many as three-quarters of online shoppers say they mail items back because they don’t fit. This is followed by a discrepancy between the item’s description and the item itself—56% of consumers return online purchases because they claim the product they received did not match the seller’s description of it.

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As a matter of fact, the inability to feel products before purchasing them is the leading disadvantage of online shopping. To tackle this concern and reduce returns driven by fit issues and misrepresentations of the product description, make sure to provide detailed information on your product pages to allow buyers to have a clear and realistic idea of what to expect. This can be done by detailing the item’s features, material, and specifications, and including photos and videos for a more accurate understanding of how it works.

Not liking the item also ranks among the top reasons to return an item—one out of every three (33%) consumers says it’s why they decide to mail products back to the merchant. This is followed by ordering multiple items/sizes, with 14% listing it as a reason for returning purchased goods.

Logistical issues can also play a role in a buyer’s decision to return products, as 11% of shoppers say they send merchandise back because of its later-than-expected delivery. This should come as no surprise, since many consumers buy things online because of fast delivery options. In fact, as many as 25.9% of online shoppers say they shop online because of next-day delivery. 

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