Strategies for Boosting Your Bottom Line with Returns


In the ever-evolving world of e-commerce, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) face the dual challenges of maintaining profitability while providing exceptional customer service. This can be particularly difficult as expectations around modern digital experience from customers continue to rise and margins in retail are becoming tougher.

Returns can be a significant drain on resources and revenue, but their are  innovative approaches that can turn this traditional pain point into a strategic advantage. Here’s how your business can leverage some of these approaches, whatever your commerce platform, be it Magento, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce or something in between.

Understanding the impact

Returns are an inevitability in e-commerce. Studies show that return rates can range from 15% to 30%, with even higher percentages in the apparel sector and higher still in certain categories like apparel or occasion wear vs 9% in more traditional brick-and-mortar stores. For SMBs, these challenges can be even more due to tighter margins and limited resources.

Before looking at approaches you should consider the impact of returns returns wholistically. The average wholistic cost of processing a return is estimated to be between £8 to £16

  • Lost sales
    • Summary: Each returned item represents a lost sale. When customers return products, the initial sale is effectively undone, leading to a direct reduction in revenue.
    • Impact: The opportunity cost of lost sales is significant, as it not only affects immediate revenue but also potential future sales if customers become dissatisfied with the return process.
  • Impact on cashflow
    • Summary: Returns can disrupt cash flow as funds are tied up in returned merchandise and the refund process. Businesses must wait for the returned items to be processed before they can be resold, delaying revenue generation.
    • Impact: Poor cash flow management can lead to liquidity issues, making it challenging to cover operating expenses and invest in growth opportunities.
  • Additional costs in handling, processing and restocking
    • Summary: Returns incur additional costs beyond the lost sale. These include shipping costs, handling fees, processing costs, and restocking expenses.
    • Impact: These costs can accumulate quickly, eating into profit margins and increasing operational expenses. Handling and restocking returned items also require additional labor, which further increases costs.
  • Customer dissatisfaction and churn.
    • Summary: A cumbersome or unsatisfactory returns process can lead to customer dissatisfaction. If customers find returns difficult or are unhappy with the resolution, they are less likely to make future purchases.
    • Impact: High return rates can negatively impact customer loyalty, leading to increased churn. Dissatisfied customers may not only stop purchasing from the retailer but also share their negative experiences with others, affecting the brand's reputation.
  • Platform Considerations
    • Summary: Retailers are often deeply invested in their current e-commerce platforms, such as WooCommerce, Magento, and BigCommerce. Migrating to a new system can be costly, time-consuming, and disruptive to business operations.
    • Impact: The need to avoid replatforming is crucial for many businesses. They require  solutions that work seamlessly with their existing systems without necessitating a complete overhaul. This helps maintain continuity and avoids the costs and risks associated with migrating to a new platform.

By understanding and addressing these pain points, small to medium retailers can look at implements solutions that can help turn these challenges into opportunities.

Strategies & Solutions

To address the pain points associated with returns and turn them into opportunities for growth, small to medium retailers can implement several effective strategies and solutions. Here’s how you can optimize your returns process using innovative approaches and tools like Flex by At Last:

1. Use a Revenue Retention Feature Compatible with Your Platform

Leveraging a revenue retention solution like Flex can help transform your returns process into an opportunity for sales and customer retention.

  • Advantages:
    • Upselling and Cross-Selling: Flex turns your returns portal into a high-converting storefront, presenting customers with upselling and cross-selling opportunities as they process their returns.
    • Improved Cash Flow: By encouraging customers to opt for balance it ensures you do not have to outlay cash in the form of a refund that could be better spent growing your business.
    • Improved incentives: Offer rewards to customers willing to shop again with you in the form of an increase in balance, free returns or something else your customers will value.
    • Seamless Integration: Flex is compatible with major e-commerce platforms like Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify and BigCommerce. This ensures that you can get the benefits without the need for disruptive replatforming and minimizing any downtime.

2. Encourage Exchange or Gift Credi

Encouraging customers to choose another product or a giftcard refunds can provide immediate financial benefits:

  • Advantages of Store Credit:
    • Retaining Revenue: Store credit or giftcards keeps the money within your business, improving cash flow and reducing the financial impact of returns.
    • Customer Retention: Offering store credit incentivizes customers to return and make additional purchases, boosting repeat business.
    • Flexibility: Offering a simple way to allow exchanges enables customers to pick another product, reducing dissatisfaction and return rates.

3. Invest in Customer Experience to Increase Loyalty at the Point of Return

A positive returns experience is crucial for maintaining customer loyalty and encouraging repeat purchases.

  • Enhanced Customer Experience:
    • User-Friendly Interface: Ensure your returns process is easy to use, intuitive, and follows best in practice user experience patterns.
    • Improved returns policy: 60% of customers feel that a good returns policy is important when making an online purchase.
    • Personalized Communication: Keep customers informed throughout the return process with updates, around key touchpoints such as shipping, QA and refund.

4. Save Time and Streamline your CS, QA, and Refund Processes

Efficient handling of returns can you and your team time and reduce costs.

  • Streamlined Processes:
    • Customer Service (CS): Implement automated systems to handle common return inquiries, freeing up your customer service team to focus on more complex issues. This improves response times and customer satisfaction.
    • Quality Assurance (QA): Use advanced QA tools to quickly assess returned items, reducing the time and labour required for manual inspections. Automated QA systems can identify patterns and recurring issues, providing valuable insights for improving product quality.
    • Refund Processing: Automate refund processes where possible to speed up resolution times. By integrating Flex, you can offer immediate balance, reducing the wait time for customers and retaining revenue within your business.

Final word

By evaluating the impact the returns are currently having on your bottom line and using a considered approach to solve the biggest returns related issues, SMBs can successfully turn a manual process into a strategic advantage. Utilizing tools like Flex by At Last can keep customers coming back at point of return, improving cash flow while upping the overall experience.

If you’d like to learn more about how we help retailer profitability or want get some general advice about anything mentioned in this article visit and book a call with one our experts.

Explore alL articles
Top reasons to upgrade your manual returns process
Explore how modernising from email or a basic carrier link can improve the efficiency of your business and leave your customers more satisfied
Strategies for Boosting Your Bottom Line with Returns
Tactics for Small to Medium Retailers on Magento, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and More
Learn more

about leveling up your returns experience

Talk to one of our experts — this will be 30 minutes well spent, we promise.
Speak to an expert
36-40 York Wy, London N1 9AB
© 2024, At Last. All Rights Reserved
Made with
by Make Us Care
For queries and support, please email