Customers send back products for all kinds of different reasons. Sometimes, it’s out of your control: The event the customer was planning to wear the dress to was canceled, or they purchased a set of wine glasses for their sister’s housewarming that she didn’t like.

But there are plenty of cases where you can be proactive in reducing customer returns by providing them with the right support – both in helping them choose the right product, and in helping them learn how to use it after it arrives.

Here’s a look at some strategies for reducing customer returns by setting the right expectations and educating your customers on your product.

Provide detailed feedback on how an item looks and fits

Apparel is one of the most frequently returned product categories, and there’s no question why. When so many different brands have their own sizing, a size 6 sweater in one brand can fit like a 10 in another. As a result, customers often send back items because they’re too small or too large, or simply not flattering to their body type.

To cut the number of returns, it’s important to provide as much data as possible on each product, so that customers can get an accurate sense of how the item would fit them. While you can include a measurement chart for each brand you carry, many customers don’t keep a measuring tape on hand and may not go to the trouble of sizing this way – so it’s also helpful to ask customers what sizes they wear in common brands, and include a “real fit” calculator that helps them understand what size to purchase in the brand they’re considering. 

Clothing also tends to look different on actual customers than it does on size 0 models, so make sure that your product photos include a diverse mix of models with different body types. User-generated content is helpful too: Encourage your customers to share reviews, product photos, and specific feedback about how the item fits (i.e., “true to size,” or “runs small”), so that customers can learn from their experiences to find what works best for them.

Consider incorporating augmented reality technology and virtual avatars

Augmented reality (AR) technology is a highly effective way to ensure that customer expectations are in line with reality. In fact, brands that incorporate AR technology have seen a 40% reduction in returns compared to brands that don’t.

Many types of brands can incorporate AR technology into their website or mobile app. Some use cases include:

  • A cosmetics brand can ask customers to turn on their webcam for a “virtual try on” of a new shade of lipstick to see if it works for them.

  • A home decor company can ask a customer to turn their phone camera to face their living room, so that they can see how a new rug would look in their living space in the phone’s display.

  • A paint company can showcase what different hues would look like on a blank wall in the customer’s home through their mobile app display.

  • An eyewear company can let customers virtually try on many different types of shades, using their computer or phone webcam to see what they’d look like in real life. 

For apparel brands, virtual try-on features still have some limitations, but you can encourage your customers to use their Bitmoji avatars to virtually “try on” clothes so that they can see what items look good together and make sure the style works for them, as Levi’s has done

In some cases, you can even use AR technology to take accurate measurements to help customers understand what to buy. IKEA, for example, enables customers to point their phone at a certain space and automatically calculate measurements, then giving recommendations and visualizations for which products would fit best there. Nike also offers a “real fit” feature that lets customers point their phone at their feet to determine their shoe size, helping them avoid the all-too-common issue of sending back shoes that don’t fit.

Going the extra mile to give customers as much context as possible on a product will help make sure their expectations are on point, reducing their likelihood of returns.

Offer better customer service and troubleshooting

But what if a customer receives a product, and simply doesn’t understand how it works – or worse, they think it’s broken when it isn’t?

In these scenarios, it’s important to make sure you have a great customer support experience ready to help your customers navigate their concerns – before they request a return.

To help you easily scale customer support, use a chatbot that you can set up with common questions to guide customers towards the right resources in your help center. Your chatbot can help people with pre-purchase questions (i.e., how does this fit?), shipping/order confirmation questions, and post-purchase issues, such as “why won’t the light go from red to green on the device?”). 

By linking customers through to a troubleshooting guide, with detailed step-by-step instructions and videos that help them solve common problems, they’ll hopefully be able to resolve their issues independently – but if they can’t, make sure that they also have quick access to live human support so that they can work through and resolve their problems. In some cases, the product may need to be replaced, but it’s important that you provide opportunities to explore whether the customer can take care of the issue with support first.

Optimize for exchanges

Even with the best product presentation and education, returns may still happen – and that’s OK.

When customers return items, they’ll typically ask for a refund, and that can mean the end of that customer relationship. 

But by using an automated returns management like Loop, your customers can use a self-service dashboard that encourages customers to request exchanges instead, helping you retain revenue and customer loyalty.

When a customer initiates a return, Loop asks why they’re returning the item – and then provides relevant suggestions from your real-time product catalog based on their answer. If a hat was the wrong color, maybe they’d like it in blue instead? Or if they just didn’t like the product altogether, your brand can offer them store credit, including bonus credit, that they can use towards any item in your store – with no need to check out again.

By setting up a great customer experience that provides your customers with detailed product information, troubleshooting support, and an instant exchange process, you’ll be able to reduce your return rate and retain more revenue from the returns that do happen.

Want to learn more about how Loop can help you retain more revenue? Try out a demo.