If you use ecommerce returns data to track the profiles of customers who return most frequently, you might be surprised by their profitability.

Dan Nevin, chief revenue officer, global retail, Doddle

They say you cannot please all the people, all the time, and “they” are right. But in online retail, this can be a good thing. You aspire to happy customers, but failing that, wish for honest customers.

To fully understand what your customers truly value, you need their honesty to figure out what happens when things aren’t quite right. No amount of market research can tell you this, so in this respect, serial returners can be an ecommerce retailer’s new best friend. Why is this? It’s in the data they provide.

Online returns are much more than just a necessary evil. If you’re using ecommerce returns data to track the profiles of customers who return most frequently, you might be surprised by their profitability. Sure, they may make a return with every purchase, but their spending outweighs any margin drag from the return.

Loyalty doesn’t mean perfect

Consider this. A customer buys eight items and returns four—is your glass half full or half empty here? It should be half full because they’ve still bought four items from you, and you know that next week or month, they’ll probably be back to do the same again.


If they weren’t having a good ecommerce shopping experience with you (and the way you handle your online returns plays an enormously important role in this), then they wouldn’t be back. So, their loyalty and repeat business cause great optimism, and the returns tell you what to improve.

Returners tell you what’s working and what’s not

What customers return can be interesting. With the right digital returns platform, you can discover all sorts of fascinating information about your inventory. Are you stocking a range of items that are consistently mis-sized? Or are some of your product descriptions inaccurate? Are you constantly picking up on faulty batches and unclear product photography, or are they slipping through the net? Your serial returners can give you all this feedback and their money at the same time. What focus group could give you all of that?

Their numbers are your reputation 

At volume, they are profitable repeat business and a mass living testimonial to the excellence of your operation. You make it easy. They trust you. They recommend you. Investing in a great online returns experience may seem like an unlikely way to gain brand ambassadors. Still, given that most people use returns policies as a way of choosing retailers in the first place, for a frequent returner, it’s high on their priorities list.

Embrace your new friends and say goodbye to the bad eggs

There’s a vast difference between a customer who returns everything they buy online and someone who returns half of their purchases. Just knowing who they are from the get-go can make your operation more cost-efficient and give you better data to work with. For example, with a digital returns solution, you can set rules to prevent bad actors from taking advantage; e.g., when the returns start to occur too frequently, you can begin to charge for return shipping or increase the charge they pay.

Lessen the impact, but don’t discourage the returns

Approach ecommerce returns in the same way as you would any other business expense and offset them against the very real benefits of having long-term, high value, incredibly loyal customers who champion your brand. Use the data they offer you through digital returns to make better decisions about your products and how you sell them. Ensure that when they return their items that you traffic, the goods are quickly and efficiently to the right place at the right price.


Once you trust these customers, you might even want to issue instant refunds so that they can start spending online again straight away—making it a win/win for everyone involved.

Doddle provides returns, collections and ship from store technology for retailers.