Reduce returns with customer reviews - boomerang with tree in background and blue sky

How Customer Reviews Reduce Returns and Lead to More Sustainable Ecommerce Operations!

By Guest: Opinew • 29 September 2021

According to the Sustainability Annual Trends Report (2020), ecommerce has experienced rapid growth in recent years. While this is good news for merchants, it’s come at the cost of unprecedented environmental impact. As a result, when running a store in this crowded ecommerce market, it’s increasingly important to be a business that prioritises ethical behaviour and sustainable practices.  

In the ecommerce world, sustainability can be optimised throughout all aspects of our operations, from business models and supply chain integration, through to better packaging of products and fulfilment.

Optimising the reviews sections on your Shopify store might not be the first action you consider when looking to run a greener ecommerce business, but can make a big contribution on the journey of making your store more environmentally friendly. The whole idea can be summarised in this flow:

Better reviews management => More user-generated product information on site => more informed purchase decisions => Reduce returns rate => Decrease in both transportation emissions and packaging issues 

In this article, we will explain this idea in more detail, and show you five ways to improve your Shopify reviews sections.

Why should you care about sustainable ecommerce?

There’re many different definitions of sustainability. According to ​​the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In other words, sustainability is the integration of environmental health, social equity and economic vitality, in order to create a resilient community for this generation and many future generations to come. In the business world, sustainability is now an unavoidable topic. Retailers and customers are increasingly conscious of the need to conserve the environment, rather than pollute it further.

For ecommerce businesses, there are 3 main reasons why you should care about sustainability. Firstly, the evolution of ecommerce has had a huge impact on our environment, both positive and negative. Despite the fact that ecommerce business models limit the number of transportation emissions released by customers (staying in their homes, instead of travelling to stores), delivery trucks and other vehicles (such as planes) still emit significant amounts of dangerous pollutants. 

Moreover, all shipped items must be packaged in some way, and the online shipping boom is resulting in a massive cardboard footprint. Although most packaging materials can be recycled, a 2018 EPA research on containers and packaging found that only about half of the approximately 82,000 tons of containers and packaging produced in the United States was recycled, while the other 30,000 tons ending up in landfills. Knowing this impact, there has never been a more crucial time to start thinking about making this process more environmentally sustainable. 

Secondly, consumers want to consume products from businesses that care about sustainability. In a study conducted by Deloitte in 2017, Millennials were asked ‘Before purchasing from a luxury brand do you make sure it is a sustainable and ethical brand?’. The survey found that 67% of respondents checked a brand’s sustainability occasionally or often. This demonstrates a high degree of environmental awareness among younger customers.  

Oinew 1

Why do reducing returns lead to more sustainable ecommerce?

Sadly, not every customer will be satisfied with the items that they order. There are many possible reasons for this: the item may not be the same as it appears online, it may not fit, or something may have been broken during the shipping process. Many online stores want to create a simple return process, because the more friction that exists, the less likely a customer is to take a chance to make a buying decision.

Many customers don’t consider the fact that the returns process impacts negatively upon the environment, through transportation emissions and packaging waste. When an item is returned, it enters a reverse transportation cycle, doubling the emissions. The sustainable returns company Optoru has estimated that returns generate 15 million metric tons of CO2. Moreover, many of the items consumers return never make it back onto the shelf, with around 25% of returns ending up in landfills.  

By finding ways to reduce returns, you are making changes toward more sustainable ecommerce. There are several ways to reduce return rates – here are some ideas to consider:: 

  • Elevate the value of customer reviews: Giving consumers the option of leaving detailed product evaluations is an excellent way to boost social proof. It can also provide vital information about your items that might otherwise go unnoticed, leading to more informed purchase decisions.

  • Make sure every product listed has high-quality images and descriptions: When a product fails to live up to the expectations stated on the website, it is a major factor in product returns. Setting aside some time to look over your store and ensure that each product has high-quality images, a clear description, and, if required, videos can help to prevent returns.

  • Implement a dynamic sizing chart: Providing an accurate and thorough size chart for your consumers is an important contributor to the prevention of product  returns. This is especially important if you work in the fashion sector since average return rates for online clothes retailers are over 40%.

In the next section, we will focus on one solution mentioned above to reduce returns: improving the customer reviews. 

4 ways to use reviews to reduce your returns rate

#1. Encourage customers to leave detail-oriented product reviews

By having a comprehensive review section on your store, you can provide consumers with a better understanding of the items they’re considering. The reviews section can help set expectations about the functionality and usability of the product. This means that shoppers can read about other people’s experiences with the product and make a more informed choice about whether it’s right for them. Online reviews are a fantastic way to complement product descriptions and add new and insightful information from previous customers. 

Another tip for getting the most out of customer feedback is to arrange fields such as height, weight, body type, and size, and then apply filters to those parameters.

Modcloth is a great example:


It doesn’t just allow customers to write reviews. It encourages shoppers to share details about the product and themselves, so other customers can better understand how a specific garment may fit them by finding and reading a review from someone with a similar shape and weight to their own. 

One of the main reasons for returns is products failing to meet expectations. By giving a detail-oriented and comprehensive reviews section, people will have specific information about the product they want to order, then reducing the return rates. 

Working with a third-party review app like Opinew will help you capture and manage all customer reviews from many different sources in a shorter amount of time. For example, if you use Opinew, you can:

  • Easily import product feedback from Amazon, AliExpress, and eBay

  • Customer your social proof section on your Shopify stores

  • Request reviews: Send reviews request emails to customers.

#2. Take advantage of photos and video reviews

As an ecommerce business looking to reduce returns, it’s critical to show customers exactly what they’re getting before the products arrive at their doorstep. As a result, displaying videos and photos of how your product is used, worn, or consumed may boost online product sales while lowering returns since buyers will not be surprised when they receive the goods they bought. 65% of consumers say they can better imagine themselves using a product after they’ve viewed a product video.

You can take a look at an example below: 

Venture Heat

Venture Heat is a customer of Opinew. They include a prominent social proof section on their homepage. Alongside the social proof section, they add lots of photos of customers using their products. These sections help potential buyers visualize themselves using the product and see how the product looks in real life. Many pieces of research have shown that, if you have a bunch of customer photos of your product in use, you’re more likely to sell more.

#3. Analyze customer feedback to proactively prevent returns

Reviews can be a great source of insight for product development and innovation. Consumer feedback is essential for product improvement and by focusing on customer experiences, brands can gain insight into their products and identify the reasons why some customers are choosing to make product returns. 

You’ll want to pay close attention to the negative reviews, not just the positive ones. Even though it’s difficult to please everyone with your products, a lot of negative reviews can highlight patterns or common issues that can help you drive improvements as the manufacturer or seller. 

#4. Reduce uncertainty by answering customer questions

Sometimes, shoppers will want information that isn’t included in your product description or anywhere else in your store. In these cases, a Q&A section on your product page can be beneficial, enabling your potential customer to instantly find answers to their questions. According to PewResearch, the ability to ask questions is a key factor when a consumer is considering whether to buy a product. This means that buyers frequently have unanswered questions about products, which can prevent them from purchasing or returning items after they have been purchased. Moreover, a pass response from you or a verified customer can strengthen engagement, build trust and ultimately boost conversion rate. 

A Q&A question looks like this: 

Q&A Opinew

By responding to questions and having a good Q&A section on your store, you can help reduce shopper uncertainty, minimize the impact of negative experiences, reduce returns and create a more positive impression about your business.

Take the necessary steps to make your ecommerce business greener

As an ecommerce business owner, you’ll inevitably have to deal with returns, but by proactively taking measures to try to minimise these, you can lessen their environmental impact. The four solutions provided in this article are easy to execute, especially when working with the right partners to support your business.

Sustainability and the future of our planet is a huge issue that affects all of us. As an ecommerce business owner, you can do something to make the situation better, little by little. Make an intentional, positive start today: improve your reviews to reduce product returns. 

Thank you Opinew!