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Can You Learn from eBay’s Tips on Reducing Returns?


ReturnseBay sent a mass email to sellers on March 26 about their return rates, in some cases warning recipients the rate was “too high.” Each email was customized for the recipient – showing the number and types of returns they had experienced over the review period – and eBay also compared seller’s return rate with their peers in a section called “How You Stack Up.”

In its email, eBay disclosed that “High returns have a negative impact on your sales and listing visibility,” a statement that was not well received by some recipients who had understood that returns would not impact the visibility of their listings.

One of the most despised reasons for returns on eBay is the notorious “Item Not as Described” (INAD, or SNAD), and in its notification, eBay offered some advice on how to reduce return rates for INADs.

Given the circumstances, sellers may chafe at eBay’s advice or may not have even seen it. Here are eBay’s recommendations, let us know if there’s anything on the list that you aren’t doing that might help you going forward.

eBay’s List of 6 Ways to Reduce Returns for Item Not as Described

1) Reduce the number of items that arrive damaged

– Improve your packaging to prevent damage in shipment.

– Inspect refurbished and used items more closely for hidden defects and damage. Call these out clearly in your listing description and photos.

2) Reduce the number of items that don’t work or are defective

– Ensure new items are described accurately, sealed, and are in their original packaging.

– Inspect refurbished and used items more closely for hidden defects and damage. Call these out clearly in your listing description and photos.

– Remove products with high rates of manufacturing flaws from your inventory.

3) Make sure you aren’t missing parts

– Inspect packages more closely to ensure all items ordered are included and correct.

– Check open box items to ensure all components are present and function as expected.

– Use checklists for items with many parts, or for multiple items in a combined shipment.

4) Make sure you aren’t sending the wrong item

– Inspect packages more closely to ensure all items ordered are included and correct.

– Check open box items to ensure all components are correct.

– Use checklists for items with many parts, or for multiple items in a combined shipment.

5) Make sure your product is authentic

– It is illegal to sell counterfeits, fakes, or replicas of brand name items. We don’t allow these to be sold on eBay. Please refer to our policy on counterfeit and replica items.

– Misusing brand names and keywords to manipulate search results can also result in false buyer expectations. Don’t make comparisons or reference brands that aren’t the same brand you’re selling.

6) Ensure your products match their descriptions or photos

– Clearly and accurately describe your items and return policies.

– Use lots of high-quality photos and item specifics in your listings to set the right buyer expectations. Photos help buyers to see exactly what they’re getting as well as specific details they may be looking for.

– When selling used items, photos are especially important because they let the buyer see the actual condition of the item along with other details like color.

– Specify your item’s condition using structured specifics and ensure the selected condition is accurate and consistent with the rest of the item description.

What do you think of eBay’s suggested tactics, and let us know your takeaways from eBay’s campaign to inform and warn sellers about returns.

Note: you may also be interested in reading “Reports eBay Is Forcing Buyer Remorse Returns” on the AuctionBytes Blog.


Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

4 thoughts on “Can You Learn from eBay’s Tips on Reducing Returns?”

  1. When it comes to men’s clothes, the current sizing system in the world is a mess and was developed before the internet, assuming I guess that buyers would try clothes on in the stores where they were looking.

    It’s not an easy problem to fix. It would be if eBay buyers were better shoppers but the current state is that a significient %age of buyers buy without even reading the item description.

    The logical solution would be for prosective buyers be required to measure an item like the one they are interested in buying and compare those key measurements to those supplied by the seller.

    Take short sleeve shirts, for example. Knowing these 3 measurements is all you need to buy a shirt that fits you well:
    Chest (arm pit to arm pit times 2)
    Length (top of collar to hem at the bottom)
    Shoulders (Shoulder seam to shoulder seam when there is one, so the seam doesn’t hang over the shoulders or be too tight).
    Instead we have Small, Medium, Large, XL, 2XL, 3XL, XLT, XL Big, etc, and all these labels measure differently from manufacturer to manufacturer, plus add Original fit, Slim fit, Classic Fit, Athletic fit, etc.

    Almost all of my returns are because the item doesn’t fit, which would have been avoided if the buyer knew about inches, not “I wear a large shirt and this is too big.”

  2. Sellers who rely exclusively on eBay item numbers are more likely to make errors.

    eBay could help sellers reduce returns by providing more robust support for seller SKU numbers for tracking inventory before it is listed. The eBay-centric approach treats seller SKU numbers as a reluctantly stored foreign key with little visibility or support during the listing or fulfillment process. Sellers must map their inventory system, if one exists, into eBay item numbers, an inevitably error prone process unless a third-party eCommerce tool like SixBit is used to avoid having to search for inventory using eBay item numbers.

  3. ZZ mentions that you should measure the dimensions along with listing the size on the tag. I do this on all my clothing items, and some are still returned. Problem is that some buyers do not read the item description.

    This problem will worsen if a seller offers free returns. A buyer will know that they can send back an item at the sellers expense, and it will be free to “windowshop” on eBay. So why bother with reading any details??

    I cannot learn from the eBay tips and recommendations, since I already incorporate these into my business. The only two returns I have had in the last three months were for brand new and factory sealed items which had manufacturer defects. Still, I was warned that “Your Returns Are Too High”, and was told my listings may be hidden because of it.

  4. We sell nothing but brand new items, in the manufacturer’s packaging, using their listings.
    There’s nothing that they mention that would help us one bit.
    The fact is, returns are simply out of control. They often cause buyers nothing now, so why should they care? As buyer shipping costs have gone away, returns have gone up.
    Worse, so many buyers now treat purchases as rentals. Or, a way to get free stuff. None of the above tips even acknowledge that fact, let alone address it.

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