Give your customers a voice! There is no better way to collect valuable feedback than to ask customers who were already committed enough to make a purchase. Especially if they are a returning or repeat customer. 

We tend to get caught up with always seeking feedback from the market or shoppers who have not yet made a purchase. We have an obsession with discovering what makes someone more likely to buy. 

While this feedback is great, it pales in comparison to the feedback you can collect from existing customers. The quality of feedback you receive is much higher from a returning customer than a first-time shopper. You get to hear from those who have actually gone through the purchase journey and physically interacted with your product.

I have seen many DTC brands make meaningful changes based on this feedback, and the best place to capture it is in the returns process. When customers state their reasons for returning an item, they are giving you valuable intel to help you improve your business.

Why? You get honest feedback during the online returns process

People are more transparent and honest with feedback when they are put in an emotional situation. Think about the last time you felt “wronged” or “let down” by a brand, I bet you had no problem expressing how you felt… 

This honest feedback is sometimes hard to hear, but it is vital to creating the best customer experience possible. Recently research suggests that only 4% of people are willing to proactively speak up while 96% will say nothing and silently not return, according to iZooto.

If you want to tip the scales in your favor and get feedback from more customers, online stores need to ask customers their reasons for returning goods. The goal isn’t to hold them accountable, it’s to learn.

We interviewed John Maddalone from Baseballism, he described the feedback you capture in the returns process as “the negatives you need to hear to actually improve and move your business forward.”

And if you listen to our podcast with John, you’ll hear that his team was able to turn return reasons into critical product information content, like sizing charts. They also used reasons for product returns to directly improve the product.

When customers returned their purchases, John & Basebalism didn’t look at it as a customer service burden. Instead, they saw it as an opportunity to collect valuable feedback.

What’s a good reason to return an item? Start with a clear return policy

The return policy will set the stage for your data collection strategy. You’ll need to define valid reasons for returning goods as a first step. In the case of apparel brands, reasons for returning clothes are usually simple: the size or style wasn’t right.

The interaction between your product and return policy is crucial. You’ll want to clearly define circumstances where customers can and cannot return items. Many brands have extremely progressive return policies where whatever customers buy can be returned within a return window.

Whatever your policy is, making it clear will keep customer returns focused squarely on the product. That will help you reduce friendly fraud and create an environment where customers feel safe to honestly list their reasons for returning their purchase.

Make refund reasons in the customer returns process easy

Collecting feedback is a delicate balance of making it easy, yet detailed enough to draw conclusions from. You don’t want to force feedback, but you do want to strongly encourage it. Getting the right balance of quality and quantity is all in how you ask for it.

When collecting feedback we recommend:

  1. Ask for an initial return reason
  2. Ask a situational follow-up 
  3. Provide an optional comment box 

As an example:

  1. Item does not fit 
  2. Item was too tight 
  3. Comment box where a customer can state where or why it was tight

Customers see asking for feedback during the return process as a very reasonable request. They are more than happy to complete it for you, as long as you don’t make it time-consuming or complicated. The above is an example of how we set feedback collection within Loop.

Another easy reason to make the process simple: sometimes customers ordered the wrong thing. You don’t want to risk causing post-purchase dissonance by complicating the process.


Get granular with return reasons specific to a product type

You are likely selling a variety of products. If you sell men’s apparel you might have a catalog that includes shirts, pants, footwear, and hats. If you want to collect the best feedback possible you should create return reasons specific to each product type. That way you can get feedback that goes beyond just size.

A few examples of getting granular by product 

  • Ask about sleeve length for shirts 
  • Collect width feedback for footwear 
  • Differentiate sizing for waist and length for pants
  • Get information on frames for sunglasses

If you are using Shopify, you can use product types to differentiate products and have return reasons specific to each type. Loop even makes it easy to categorize the reasons and export the data you collect.

Returns feedback can improve all areas of the DTC experience

It is much harder to get the feedback you need to improve when you are a DTC brand. Being separated by a computer screen means that you can’t simply just ask each customer how things are going. If you are collecting returns feedback correctly you are able to make all sorts of customer-informed improvements.

Here are a few examples of how brands can improve with feedback collected in the returns process.

Improve product photography

There is a delicate balance of product photography that looks great and on-brand with true-to-reality shots. These photos (and descriptions) are what a customer will be basing their entire purchase off of.

22% of returns are because what the customer received did not match what was shown in the product shots. Remember that the tactics that make product shots look amazing, can also make them less accurate, especially lighting.

A product arriving that did not match the product photography accounts for 22% of all returns.

Inaccurate product shots was one major return reason that Love Your Melon was able to uncover once they started to collect feedback from customers. They found that some customers were returning items because the actual color of the products that arrived differed from what the customer expected based on the website product shot.

With this feedback, Love Your Melon adjusted their catalog with images that had a more accurate color appearance so that the product that the customer received was exactly what they were expecting.

Love Your Melon and other top DTC brands are adopting a product photography strategy that shows the product on a light grey background at the catalog view. They supplement that with lifestyle images of people wearing the product along with close-up detail images on product pages to give the customer additional visual information about the product.

How to collect feedback to adjust product photography:

  1. Set a return reason to – Item did not match product shot 
  2. Have return details that elaborate – color did not match, misleading size 
  3. Optional comment field for the customer to elaborate

Write more accurate product descriptions

A more obvious improvement you can make with returns feedback is an improvement to product descriptions. 46% of returned items are because of the wrong size or fit, according to Retail Dive. This makes sizing issues the most common reason an item is returned and presents you with a great place to make improvements. 

As an example, if 70% of customers are saying that the reason they returned a product was that it was too big, you should let shoppers know that the item fits large, and suggest sizing down.

Being very specific with how things fit is important for all apparel companies, but none more so than swimwear and intimates. They are personal items with a body-conscious customer. Fit is vital in these industries and likely explains why they have return rates between 30% – 40%.

How to collect feedback to adjust product descriptions:

  1. Set a return reason to – Item did not fit
  2. Have return details that elaborate – Item was too small, big, loose, tight 
  3. Optional comment field to collect more granular detail

Improve manufacturing and logistics partnerships

One last major benefit of collecting returns feedback is to strengthen your manufacturing and logistics partnerships. Data collected in the returns process can tell you when certain products or materials are not meeting the standards of your customer or if a logistics provider is making a mistake too often. 

We have seen brands use this feedback to find all sorts of areas to improve, including:

  • The particular color of the product is being made smaller than the rest 
  • New releases have a different fit than previous offerings 
  • Footwear is being sent with two pairs of laces 
  • Certain warehouses are shipping the wrong item at an unacceptable rate

It is amazing what you find when you give the customer a medium to share what’s happening. 

Even Amazon’s logistics infrastructure has flaws, as evident from the returned waffle maker that was then shipped back out to a customer with a burnt waffle still inside…

The flaws might not be as noticeable as this example. However, every time the customer does not get the item they were expecting, it’s an opportunity to learn. Collecting returns feedback allows you to improve the processes you own and keep the ones you outsource accountably.

If you use multiple fulfillment partners you can filter the feedback to specific products to find which partner is not meeting the quality standards you set.

How to collect feedback to find logistics problems:

  1. Set a return reasons – damaged/defective
  2. Have return details specific to your product – loose thread, stained, used

Give your customers an easy way to impact your business

There is no greater source of feedback than your existing customers. Especially when you ask them to share feedback at a time they are most willing to share. The customer feels heard when you let them give feedback, it gives them a voice.

Customers are heard when you collect feedback, it gives them a voice to improve your business.

We have seen brands improve all areas of their business with returns feedback directly from the customer. Brands create more accurate photography, product descriptions that facilitate the right size, and choose the best partners possible.

If you want to improve your business with customer feedback, get in touch. We would love to show you how.