You finally set up your fashion store on Shopify, started marketing activities and are getting your first orders. Everything is going great until…you get your first return request.
No need to panic, returns are a big part of ecommerce, the most important thing is to make sure you implement an effective product returns management strategy and turn returns into an opportunity to delight your shoppers.
In fact, the problem is not receiving return requests. Those are normal and predictable. The problem is not knowing how to deal with them. In a previous article we explained in detail how to deal with return requests and how to use returns to get to know your customer better.
In this article you’ll find out an overview of the return process in Shopify and a curated list of the best Shopify returns Apps for your clothing store.
Why proper return management is so important
It can be wrong size, unmet expectations, a defective product or a simple change of plan. Whatever the reason might be that prompted your customer to request a return, you and your ecommerce must be ready to react effectively.
Not only does the communication with the customer need to be extremely smooth. Depending on the situation, you will also need to provide clear indications about what to do with the returned product. Whether to recycle it, replace it, resell it or simply discard it. You will have to decide whether to offer the customer a refund or an exchange, a credit to use on your ecommerce or a repair of the faulty product.
In short, there are many aspects to consider when it comes to returns, but if you manage to deal with returns efficiently, you will turn an inconvenience into a unique opportunity to increase the loyalty and decrease returns of your ecommerce.
Shopify Returns: not all that glitters is gold…
As you might have noticed, we are big Shopify fans. But not so much when it comes to return management. The current native Shopify returns management has its limits, and merchants generally require additional help to handle their returns efficiently. Here is the official video from Shopify itself.
And here is why we are not the biggest fans of the way Shopify manages returns:
1. Everything is manually done. This means responding to the customer, going through all orders to choose the one you want to refund, approve the refund and then manually upload or create a shipping label, for every single return. If you are running anything above 10 orders per day, you will quickly feel the limitations of this system. The process is slow, the customer will not be happy and you, well, even less.
2. No return analysis dashboards in place. You will have to manually keep track of returns in a separate spreadsheet, like in the good old times. This means that information such as which items are often returned, common reasons for returns, etc., will need to be manually added and then processed by yourself.
3. No fraud management. And this is a big no-no.
4. No flexibility. For every item you might want to set up different return rules and procedures, but Shopify has a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t allow any flexibility in that sense.
Managing returns. What are the options?
If you are not happy with the native return management solution offered by Shopify, there are several other options you can take into consideration. They mainly fall under the following three categories.
1. Return prevention
Preventing a problem is always better than having to fix it later, right?
With a 41% of users making large purchases with the plan of returning the item after trying it on, and a 72% of returns in fashion being related to sizing issues, we can safely say that fixing sizing is a priority for the fashion industry. And as such, the largest efforts of fashion-tech have been going exactly in that direction.
Thanks to the latest developments in areas such as AI and machine learning, sizing solutions are becoming more and more affordable also for small and medium businesses, democratizing technologies previously accessible only to larger brands.
Sizefox is a good example of this evolution. Developed by the team behind Fit Finder™, and recently acquired by Snap, Sizefox offers an accurate, state-of-the-art size recommender and size chart creation tool for growing business.
Distributed completely free of charge as part of the Snap ecosystem, Sizefox leverages the morphological datasets of millions of global shoppers and matches them with the size charts of your brand, providing immediate size recommendations to shoppers and preventing returns due to sizing.
2. Post purchase returns software
Apart from a few exceptions, these types of Apps focus on the customer success side and can be found in the Customer Service category in the Shopify App store. This means printing return labels, managing store credits, managing exchanges and return policies.
While these Apps provide an excellent service when it comes to anything related to the customer experience, the features included in an operational return management software cover more than just CX issues and could be a more interesting option for merchants.
For example, usually the accounting records of a post-purchase software does not necessarily match the data in Shopify, which means merchants have to spend time and effort in reconciling data.
Moreover, basic post-purchase softwares do not keep track of when each return will be processed, meaning your shop will be more exposed to fraud. That’s why if you are looking for a complete solution, you might be better off with a full operational return management software, which includes all the basic features of a post-purchase App, but goes much further in supporting the logistics of returns.
3. Operational return management software
These are the most complete solutions for managing returns A to Z. On top of covering the whole customer experience side, they offer automated return status updates and omnichannel inventory management, to coordinate across multiple locations and warehouses and streamline return processes.
Almost all of them have a strong focus on data and analytics, which greatly helps merchants in identifying return trends, items most likely to be returned, do risk assessment and so on. This, in turn, results in a reduction in return rates and a higher ROAS.
Let’s see now in more detail what are the best Shopify returns Apps listed in the App Store.
Overview of the best Shopify returns apps
Exactly as every other aspect in sales and marketing, also your return strategy can be improved and optimized.
But on top of the optimization strategies listed in this article, you might want to consider a proper return management app to compensate for the shortcomings of the native Shopify returns solution. Of course each of the Apps listed in this review has its pros and cons, so let’s take a look at each one of them to make sure you have a clear understanding of which one is the right one for your specific needs.
AfterShip Returns Center
AfterShip Returns Center is a returns management portal that supports both merchants and shoppers to send and process return requests from a Shopify shop. Through the portal interface shoppers can easily submit return requests by simply inputting their order number and email instead of filling out a complex return form or sending an email to your customer support.
- Sends automated return updates to the shoppers, to keep them up to date with the status of their return, set expectations and reduce enquiries to customer support.
- Refunds can be applied to the original payment method,or customers can request item exchange, store credit and Green returns (customers keep the item & get a refund).
- Keeps track of each Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) in the platform
- Syncs and tracks returns on the Shipment dashboard to check each status
- Customize the return center with your shop logo, URL and return policy
- Tracks and manages all returns and RMA requests in one place to save processing time
- Automatically generate or manually upload prepaid labels
The app also offers a self-serve platform for shoppers to request refunds and keep track of the status return or exchange. It supports API access and comes with pre-built integrations with several other platforms, such as Help Desk, 3PLs, ERPs etc. The only downside? Returnly is currently only available for the US and Canadian markets.
- Fully brandable Return Center
- In-App Labels
- Policy Controls
- Return Management
- Nested Return Reason
- RMA Reporting
- Robust Knowledge Center
Automated RMAs and Returns
Automated RMAs and Returns is probably the most robust application for managing returns across the Shopify App Store. Fully integrated with 100+ shipping carriers world wide, the App allows you to route orders to several warehouses and to set up precise rules for different items.
Customers are updated with automated status notifications and after applying for a return they receive immediately a pre-paid label for shipping the item. The App provides a strong reporting suite and the customer support is especially responsive and supporting – something which we particularly appreciate.
- International Returns
- Automated pre-paid labels
- Works with 100+ shipping carriers across the world
- Charge your customer for return postage using Stripe
- Customer portal for creating returns
- Rules to prevent returns for different conditions
- Rules to route the return to a different location
- Export all your returns to Excel for running reports
- Customize valid return windows and return types
- Customize return reasons and return status
- Email alerts to you for each return created
- Complete customization of the email notifications your customers receive
Rich Returns focuses on promoting product exchanges, and they do it very well. Merchants can create rules for each item or item category and offer instant exchanges through all items present in the shop.
The platform powers 50+ carriers globally and offers a public REST API to connect logistics, 3PL, ERM CMS and IMS.
- Offer exchanges, store credit and refunds on your own terms. Auto-approve returns
- Keep your customers in the loop with automated email notifications
- Return window based on delivery date
- Customer photo uploads
- Set ineligible products
- Detailed Reports like: what are the most common return reasons per variant in the last month?
- CSV Exports
Conclusion: Best Shopify Returns Apps for 2022
As you can see, there’s plenty of choices when it comes to managing your returns, but we strongly suggest that, on top of picking a returns App, you prevent returns from the beginning. A size recommender, or a comprehensive size chart can do wonders when it comes to reducing return rates and increasing conversions and these tools are often listed amongst the best Shopify apps for a clothing store.
Sizefox offers both options, and being completely free of charge and with a mere 15-minutes set up, it’s worth giving it a try.