How to Minimize eCommerce Returns and Increase Sales

product photography

One of the biggest burdens an eCommerce retailer faces is the high cost of returns and the growing expectation that free return shipping be provided. Today, if you don’t provide free shipping on returns, almost 50% of your competitors do.

Obviously it’s wise to do everything possible to minimize returns on eCommerce sales.

In a poll of 500 recipients by Voxware, 54% of the people surveyed said the item they returned was the correct item but that it was the incorrect size or color.

apparel photography

Product photo of a jacket front with the hood pulled out to show the feature.

This is where your product photography comes in.  Unlike a retail store, your clients can’t pick the product up in their hands and look at it.  The photos have to be perfect representations of your product.

One of the most common difficulties I’ve heard from DIY eCommerce photographers is that they can’t get the color to match. Shades of brown, grey, teal are particularly difficult to match at times.  This is particularly true if they are using a smart phone camera, but also true with more professional consumer cameras.  Actually, professional cameras get the color wrong too if the necessary steps to make it photograph your products with accurate color aren’t taken first.

Color accuracy actually involves a number of factors including correct exposure and setting the “white balance” of your camera to be accurate for the light you are shooting in.  There are “gray cards” and other tools professional photographers use to calibrate the color balance of the camera (something that can only be done on the more professional cameras) before beginning to photograph the products.  Metering the light and setting the camera to the exact exposure is also critical.


Product photo of the back side of the jacket.

Even with these steps taken, there can still be some shift in the color.  So after the photos have been taken, they are looked at on a color calibrated computer monitor and checked against a color checker chart that was photographed with the set, or by holding the product near and checking it against the photo.  Then any needed adjustments to the photo are made in Photoshop, a professional digital photo editing program.  This can be a work around if you don’t have camera equipment capable of doing the steps above. 

It’s also important to photograph the product at a number of angles and include “detail shots” of important features. (The product photos we have in this post are an example of doing that.) The more photos you have, the more certain the buyer is that this is the product he wants and the less likely he is to return it. 

LA photographer

Product detail photograph of the side zipper in the jacket

Examples of this would be of a jacket where the front and back are photographed.  Then there may be detail shots of a pocket zipper, a detachable hood, or water beading up on the fabric to show that it’s waterproof.

The product photos must accurately represent the product.  Care must be taken to ensure the size or shape of the product doesn’t become distorted by the lens or camera angel.  If shooting for major eCommerce outlets such as Amazon strict standards are in place for how much of the frame the product fills verses the white space.  Also that the background be 100% white, not just to the eye on the computer monitor, but that the actual numerical color value when checked by a computer is 100% white.

Accurate and Detailed Product Descriptions

LA product photography

Product detail photograph of water beading up on the jacket to show waterproofing

I can’t tell you how often I have not purchased a product I see online because the description isn’t complete enough.  I need to know that it will work in my intended use.  Free return shipping or not, I don’t like to deal with returning the item. 

On the other side of that, purchasing a product and finding out when I receive it that it only works on Windows computers and not a Mac, for example guarantees that it’s getting put back in the box and returned.

This also helps you with search engine optimization.  The more complete your product information and specifications are, the more likely it is to come up on searches where the client is searching for specific features about a particular product.  (The photo at the top of this post shows the specifications for each item in the photo, but not the description.)

We hope this information will help you increase sales and minimize your eCommerce returns.  Stop back soon.  We will be posting more articles about how to place better in search results and other eCommerce marketing tips.

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