Strategic Returns: Turning Challenges Into Opportunities for Small Businesses

Self Made: NASE's Blog

Blog With Us

Welcome to the Self Made. This is a blog focused primarily on the self-employed and micro-business and full of fantastic posts by not only our team of experts but by YOU!  We realize that there are many ways to help the small businesses out there which is why we invite other business minded individuals to post here and help the rest of the community as well.

Strategic Returns: Turning Challenges Into Opportunities for Small Businesses

Jan 17, 2024

As commerce evolves, greater possibilities arise when dealing with challenges. Small businesses are better equipped to handle adversity and setbacks. You just have to harness the technology and opportunities available to you. Learn how to prevent an overwhelming amount of returns — and how best to deal with the returns you do receive.

Preventing Serial Returns

Sometimes, you will run into customers who habitually return orders. Or, you have a certain product in your inventory that is returned more frequently than others. Worse, you might have a problem with all of your products being returned to stock more than you would like. Luckily, there are ways to thwart these persistent returns. 

It’s nearly impossible to stop returns from ever happening unless you have a no-return policy. However, flexible policies are more likely to keep customers happy and loyal to your brand. If you’re experiencing an influx of returns, it can be a large threat to your productivity and financial stability. Instead of clamping down on return policies, identify the root cause of the returns and adjust as necessary.

Optimize Product Descriptions

There are many reasons customers return products. These include issues like damage during shipment, buyer’s remorse, and unmet expectations. While many returns are unpredictable, you can avoid disappointing customers by providing clear product descriptions. Clarity in product descriptions and representations across platforms is crucial to managing expectations. 

First, provide comprehensive information about the product's features, specifications, and dimensions in an easy-to-read format like a bulleted list. Using straightforward language is also helpful to ensure the description is easily understandable by a diverse audience. When adding images to the product listing or social media posts, make sure to keep them high-quality and take them from various angles to give customers a clear visual understanding. It’s also crucial to be transparent. Outline any limitations or potential drawbacks of the product if necessary.

To really paint a clear picture of the product, include customer reviews and testimonials to offer real-life perspectives. Also, provide responsive customer support across a variety of channels. This allows you to further assist customers in making informed decisions. By prioritizing transparency and customer-centric communication, your small business can foster trust and reduce the likelihood of returns. 

Adjust Policies

Clarity should also be implemented through an accessible, easy-to-understand return policy. A well-defined return policy should include detailed information on the acceptable timeframe for returns. Clearly outline whether customers can make returns within 30 days, 60 days, or another reasonable period that allows you to restock and not lose profit on that item. 

Further, the condition in which products are eligible for return is crucial. Ensure that customers understand the criteria for a valid return to avoid getting back items that are unsellable. Provide transparent information about the refund or exchange process, including how long it takes and any associated fees.

When adjusting for clarity and completeness, determine if your current policy can be updated to reflect your unique audience’s preferences, like receiving store credit or keeping the intended returns and receiving a refund. A user-friendly, generous, and easily accessible return process — whether through online platforms or in-store — can contribute to a positive customer experience. By establishing clear rules and procedures, your small business can not only prevent returns stemming from misunderstandings but also foster customer trust and loyalty. 

Enhance Customer Satisfaction

Running an e-commerce business or brick-and-mortar store is largely about catering to the customer. To avoid returns, make sure customers are as satisfied as possible — with the product and with any interactions they have with your company. This means shipping the right items in the first place, including assessing for damage and defects. Proper quality assurance can avoid many returns. 

Also, ship items as quickly and reliably as possible. Customers want to receive their items intact and on time. Keep them posted with shipment updates and make sure your customer service interactions are prompt and professional. If you or your team need to brush up on the user experience (UX), you can provide UX training. Particularly online, UX design and interactions are important for improving customer satisfaction, causing fewer mishaps, and avoiding returns. Any continued education for customer service team members can be helpful in this area.

Turning Returns Into Opportunities

Small businesses overcome adversity by taking negative situations and using them to adapt, grow, change, and innovate. In the case of product returns, this is actually quite simple.

Ask for Feedback

When customers return products, make it part of the process to solicit feedback. Ask returners why they are returning the product, what they expected, and how you could do better. This will give you valuable insight into how to change your offerings in the future. It also gives customers a sense that you are interested in their preferences and suggestions, hopefully bringing them back in the future.

Suggest More Suitable Items

Returns also offer a chance to upsell. If the current product doesn’t match the consumer’s needs, suggest — through customer service channels or automation — products that more closely match their preferences. Remind them that they can use their store credit or refund toward the new purchase, and highlight how the product is more suited to their needs.

Relist, Refurbish, and Repurpose

Finally, you can take your return inventory and make it new again. For example, if the products are returned damaged, you can refurbish them to working order and list them at a discounted price. Sometimes, this can bring in new customers that wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. 

Further, you can relist items if they are thoroughly assessed for any issues. If the item is returned and no longer for sale or viable for refurbishment, you can consider upcycling. Through recycling materials, you can create an entirely new product from returns — one that will hopefully meet customers’ needs more closely and perform better in the future.


Meet The Author:


Luke Smith

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger.


Related Member Benefits

We thought these benefits may be of interest based on the content above.
Business: Legal Club Business Plan

Access to a national network of attorneys in every field of law at either no cost or reduced rates.

Business: Business Learning Center

Full access to articles, in-depth guides and more

Expert Advice: Business Strategy

We call it Business 101, but our business strategists will personally answer your questions about how to succeed in business.

The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the National Association for the Self-Employed or its members.

Courtesy of