The Return Season is here! Retain over 40% of your returns as exchanges! - Learn More
    • Tracking & Notifications

      Boost customer experience and reduce support tickets

      Identify and Resolve Order Issues

      Realtime order and shipment tracking

      Delivery Notifications

      Proactive order and shipping notifications

      Increase Conversion Rate

      Predictive pre-purchase estimated delivery dates

      Branded Tracking

      Self-Serivce branded order tracking

      Reduce Operational Cost

      Effortless experience delivered

      Returns & Exchanges

      Make returns profitable and delight customers

      Flexible Return Policies

      Flexibility to define any return destinations & conditions

      Self-Service Returns

      Simplify returns for your customers and team


      Incentivize exchanges over returns

      Automate Returns Management

      Returns management made easy for your team

      Returns Analytics

      Understand why your customers are returning

      In-Store and Curbside Pickup

      Unify the online and the in-store experience

      Curbside Pickup Check-in

      Hassle-free pickup experience for customers

      Pickup order management

      In-Store Dashboard to keep operations streamlined

      Unified Commerce

      In-Store and Online orders unified

      Store Locator

      Drive foot-traffic to your stores

  • Integrations
  • Customers
    • Help Center

      Find the answer to all your questions

      WeSupply FAQ

      Explore the most comon questions about WeSupply

      Post Purchase ROI Calculator

      Calculate the ROI that WeSupply can bring you

      FREE Website Review

      Request a no strings attached review of your current shopping experience and missed conversion opportunities

      Blog & Guides

      Read actionable articles on how to optimize your post-purchase experience and decrease support tickets

      Case Studies

      Get inspired by stories of how our customers implemented an effortless post-purchase experience

      Behind The Brand

      A Deep Dive into Top Companies' Order Tracking & Returns Strategy

      Pre-built Return Policies

      Wondering if WeSupply is a good fit for you? Read through our use cases to see how we can help you increase conversion & improve CX!

  • Pricing

Sign in

The Real Price of an Online Refund

Minecraft using WeSupply analytics

Online refunds often come with a price tag that extends far beyond the refunded sum. This guide targets the key concerns for retailers—highlighting how the cost of online refund can infiltrate your profit margins and push up operating costs. We tackle logistic fees, customer retention challenges, and the strategic steps you can take to control the cost of online refunds, helping keep your business financially healthy.

Key Takeaways

  • Returns not only impose direct costs through customer acquisition, shipping, labor, and opportunity costs, but also drive an environmental toll, contributing to waste and increasing CO2 emissions, prompting businesses to adopt more sustainable practices.


  • Businesses can mitigate the financial and environmental costs of returns by encouraging exchanges and store credit, providing accurate product descriptions, offering responsive customer support, and using technology like AI to predict and prevent returns.


  • WeSupply streamlines online returns, reducing costs and enhancing customer satisfaction with automated management, green initiatives, and fraud prevention. Its key offerings include streamlined processes, incentives for exchanges, QR code labels, and a branded portal, all aimed at minimizing the financial and environmental impact of returns. Transform your returns process with WeSupply. Get started now!

Introduction: The Real Price of an Online Refund

When a customer clicks the ‘refund’ button, it sets off a chain reaction that resonates throughout your business. The reverberations are felt not just in your finance department but also in your logistics, customer service, and even your marketing efforts. Customer refunds are a common occurrence, with approximately 30% of all online purchases being sent back as customer returns. This phenomenon is not limited to large retailers. Small businesses across various sectors, like food retail and fragile goods industries, are particularly challenged.

The financial implications are staggering. Online refunds can significantly impact a business’s operations and profitability, with UK retailers losing approximately £5.2 billion annually due to online returns. In 2022 alone, the cost of returns for online retailers reached a whopping $816 billion. But the damage is not just financial. Returns contribute significantly to carbon dioxide emissions, leading to substantial waste accumulation in landfills. The magnitude of the issue has led to a concerted effort to reduce the cost of returns, with some success. Investments in improving returns processes have shown positive results, reducing the cost of returns from $816 billion in 2022 to $743 billion in 2023.

Exploring the multifaceted costs and impacts of online returns on businesses

Returns represent a significant challenge for small businesses, with about 18% of orders being sent back. This high rate of returns implicates resource allocation and negatively impacts the bottom line, leading to:

  • increased management time

  • financial impacts from refunds

  • dealing with faulty or unsellable returns

  • restocking issues

  • lack of capacity to process returns

The inability of customers to interact with products before buying, inherent to online shopping, often results in expectation mismatches and thus a higher rate of returns. Nearly half of the retailers in a survey identify returns as a severe problem, accentuated during the holiday season.

The environmental implications of online shopping are just as significant. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Online shopping generates nearly five times more packaging waste than physical stores, contributing to environmental damage.

  • Many retailers lack the necessary infrastructure to effectively manage and restore returned goods to perfect conditions, resulting in losses or the disposal of these items.

  • Retailers are working with reverse logistics providers and participating in the circular economy to reduce the environmental impact of returns.

These factors combined have led to increased efforts to reduce the environmental impact of online shopping.

WeSupply offers a comprehensive solution for businesses grappling with the complex costs and impacts of online returns. By automating and streamlining the return process, WeSupply significantly reduces the time and resources typically consumed by manual handling. This system not only minimizes returns fraud and human error but also enhances customer satisfaction by making returns hassle-free. Furthermore, its intelligent dispositions feature guides returns towards recycling centers, thereby mitigating the environmental footprint of returned products.

Key features include:

The Direct Financial Impact of Refunds

We will now examine the direct financial impacts of refunds. The cost of a refund is not just confined to the amount returned to the customer. There are four main areas where a business feels the financial pinch:

  1. Customer acquisition costs

  2. Shipping costs

  3. Labor costs

  4. Opportunity costs

Each of these areas adds to the financial strain on a business and collectively contribute to the real price of an online refund, including hidden costs.

Customer Acquisition Costs: The loss incurred when a refunded customer does not return.

The initial cost used to acquire a customer is not recovered when a refund is issued. Retaining an existing customer is often a more cost-effective strategy compared to acquiring a new one. This is because the cost of acquiring a new customer can be up to seven times higher. Thus, when a refund is issued, the initial investment used to acquire that customer, which can include marketing and sales efforts, is lost.

Aside from representing the loss of a sale, refunds often imply losing the customer entirely, which calls for more investment to lure new customers to fill the void.

Shipping Costs: The financial burden of free return shipping policies.

E-commerce stores commonly offer free return shipping as a perk to draw in and keep customers. However, it adds to the financial burden when a refund is issued. Retailers must cover the cost of return shipping, which can be substantial, without retaining any revenue from the transaction. As a result, retailers are modifying return policies by shortening the allowable return period and introducing return or restocking fees due to increased costs impacting their margins.

Labor Costs: Expenses associated with processing returns.

Though frequently overlooked, the labor costs tied to processing returns can notably compound the financial burden. These costs span:

  • customer service

  • warehouse operations

  • transportation

  • handling of returned goods

  • logistics support

  • materials

  • centralized functions

  • troubleshooting service requests

Opportunity Costs: Lost future revenue from customers who do not return after a refund.

The exact opportunity cost of a refund, while potentially the most significant, is often the most disregarded. The exact opportunity cost depends on various factors, such as the customer’s lifetime value and potential future revenue. Shockingly, 96% of customers could abandon a business due to poor service.

On the flip side, a positive returns experience can lead to repeat business, with 92% of customers indicating they would make repeat purchases if the return process is easy.

WeSupply: Enhancing Revenue Through Smart Returns Management

WeSupply addresses the direct financial impact of refunds by transforming the way businesses handle returns and exchanges. Through its innovative platform, WeSupply encourages customers to opt for exchanges or store credit over traditional refunds, effectively retaining sales and potentially increasing the average order value. This approach not only maintains revenue but also fosters customer loyalty by offering flexible and customer-friendly options. Additionally, by implementing strategic fees based on return reasons and applying restocking fees for specific items, businesses can better manage return costs without compromising on customer service.

Key features include:

By optimizing the returns process and enhancing customer satisfaction, WeSupply plays a pivotal role in boosting your ROI. Discover the potential impact of WeSupply on your bottom line. Use our ROI Calculator now!

The Environmental Consequences of Online Returns

While the financial implications of returns are significant, they tell only half the story. Returns also carry substantial environmental consequences, a factor that is becoming increasingly important in our eco-conscious society. From increasing carbon emissions to generating waste, returns leave an indelible mark on our environment.

Overview of the sustainability issues posed by returns and reverse logistics

The sustainability issues posed by returns are multifaceted. Online returns contribute to environmental degradation with higher carbon emissions and increased waste generation due to factors like additional shipping and packaging. This is further exacerbated by the trend of ‘bracketing’, where customers buy multiple sizes or colors with the intent to return items.

The excessive use of packaging in online returns, which often ends up in landfills, adds to the environmental harm caused by these practices.

WeSupply: Eco-Friendly Solutions for Online Returns

WeSupply addresses the environmental impact of online returns with solutions aimed at reducing waste and promoting sustainability. Through Green Returns, customers are incentivized to keep low-value items, cutting down on shipping emissions and landfill waste. Features like automatic return label generation and printerless returns via QR codes streamline the process while minimizing paper use. Additionally, WeSupply supports in-store and curbside returns, further reducing carbon footprints, and directs returns to recycling centers through its intelligent dispositions feature.

Key features include:

  • Green Returns: Encourages customers to keep low-cost items, reducing waste and increasing satisfaction.

Strategies for Reducing the Financial and Environmental Cost of Refunds

While the impacts of returns are significant, there are strategies that businesses can employ to reduce return costs. From encouraging exchanges and store credit to providing accurate product descriptions and responsive customer support, businesses can adopt proactive measures to manage the financial and environmental costs of returns.

Encouraging Exchanges and Store Credit: Retaining sales and reducing logistic costs

Encouraging exchanges and store credit is one strategy businesses can adopt to mitigate the financial impact of returns. This not only retains sales but also reduces logistic costs. Offering customers incentives such as exclusive offers, rewards, or loyalty points can motivate them to choose exchanges or store credit over refunds.

WeSupply fosters a strategic approach to manage returns by prioritizing exchanges and store credit, effectively retaining sales while minimizing logistics costs. Encouraging customers to opt for exchanges enhances the average order value through the use of instant store credit. Moreover, offering refunds in the form of store credits, gift cards, or coupon codes not only motivates repeat business but also strengthens customer loyalty. This method proves beneficial for both the business and its clientele by offering flexible, customer-centric solutions.

Incentivize exchanges over returns

Book a quick call with our experts to see how WeSupply can help you save sales through exchanges and boost the average order value using instant store credit.

Accurate Product Descriptions: Minimizing returns through clear, honest marketing

Employing clear, honest marketing is another pivotal strategy in curbing returns. Comprehensive product descriptions can lower return rates by empowering customers to make better-informed decisions, increasing their confidence in the purchase. Transparent and detailed product descriptions can build customer trust and engagement, while simultaneously communicating the brand’s values.

Incorporating images, videos, and other visual aids alongside written descriptions can provide a more complete understanding of the product, further reducing the likelihood of returns.

Responsive Customer Support: Mitigating issues before they result in returns

Offering responsive customer support plays a crucial role in resolving issues before they lead to returns. Exceptional customer service can lead to:

  • Customer retention, which is more cost-effective than new customer acquisition

  • Reduction in a company’s customer acquisition cost

  • Reduction in churn rate.

A positive experience with customer service can increase customer satisfaction, enhancing customer loyalty and potentially increasing sales revenue by 2-7%.

WeSupply is a post-purchase platform that enhances the customer support experience by proactively addressing issues before they escalate into returns. By offering real-time tracking, automated notifications, and streamlined communication channels, WeSupply empowers businesses to engage with customers immediately after a purchase. This proactive engagement helps in quickly resolving any concerns, reducing the likelihood of returns, and fostering a positive brand relationship. Thus, WeSupply is instrumental in transforming post-purchase interactions into opportunities for customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Just like in the case of Kai USA Ltd., transforming a company’s post-purchase strategy can significantly enhance customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. Previously overwhelmed by manual customer inquiries and a complex distribution model, Kai USA implemented WeSupply’s advanced post-purchase platform. This integration with their existing Magento system provided seamless, real-time order tracking and proactive notifications, slashing their order-related customer inquiries by an impressive 92%. Additionally, it ensured full visibility across multiple distribution points and streamlined internal processes. This case study exemplifies how strategic improvements in customer support can lead to substantial benefits in customer engagement and business operations. Read the full case study to discover more about the transformative impact of responsive post-purchase support.

Tackling the Dual Challenge of Return Fraud and Abuse

In addition to managing the impact of legitimate returns—a significant challenge in itself—businesses must also confront the dual problem of return fraud and abuse. This involves identifying fraudulent activity, using technology for detection, and balancing generous return policies with the need to deter fraud.

The rise of return fraud and abuse as a significant concern

Return fraud and abuse have become a significant concern for businesses over the past few years, as highlighted by the National Retail Federation. This trend is fueled by the rise in e-commerce, the cost of living crisis, and more lenient return policies from merchants.

Recent data reveals that return abuse and fraud cost retailers approximately $24 billion annually, representing about 7% of all returns and exchanges.

Identifying Fraudulent Activity: Techniques and technologies for detection

Businesses must identify fraudulent activity to effectively combat return fraud and abuse. This is where technology comes into play. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology can be used to detect patterns and fraudulent activities, aiding in the prediction of return rates and the detection of fraud.

In addition, staff training is a crucial component in identifying fraudulent returns, where employees learn to recognize and report counterfeit or tampered product returns.

WeSupply: Combatting Return Fraud with Smart Prevention

WeSupply provides an effective solution to combat the increasing challenge of return fraud and abuse, safeguarding businesses from the financial and operational repercussions of such activities. Leveraging an intelligent fraud prevention system, WeSupply identifies and blocks customers attempting to exploit return policies, whether for one-time use of products or non-intended purchases. This system allows for the automatic synchronization of pre-existing block lists, ensuring known abusers are preemptively stopped from processing returns. Key functionalities include the ability to configure detection methods and outcomes, block specific customer groups, and prevent refunds on non-returnable items, all of which are crucial in maintaining the integrity of a business’s return process.

Technological Innovations in Managing Returns

Technological advancements provide new opportunities for managing returns. Some examples include:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics can help businesses predict and prevent returns

  • Customized return policies can be implemented using technology

  • Technology can improve the overall customer experience

AI and analytics in predicting and preventing returns

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics significantly contribute to the prediction and prevention of returns. AI enables real-time evaluation of a customer’s shopping cart, using individual profiles and purchase history to predict the likelihood of product returns with high accuracy.

AI can also assist retailers in managing returns by predicting merchandise with high return rates, allowing them to take steps to correct issues such as quality or sizing, or adjust inventory levels.

The role of data in customizing return policies and improving customer experience

Data is pivotal in tailoring return policies and enhancing customer experiences. By leveraging customer feedback on exchanged products, businesses can gain a deeper understanding of product performance and customer satisfaction.

Tailoring return policies based on data insights allows for smarter return processing and cost-effective management of return operations.

WeSupply: Streamlining Returns with Smart Tech Solutions

WeSupply revolutionizes returns management with technological innovations, significantly improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. It keeps customers informed through high-open-rate post-purchase email and SMS notifications, offers easy returns tracking, and facilitates hassle-free returns with autogenerated QR code labels. The platform’s self-service options, branded returns portal, and incentives for exchanges over refunds streamline the process for businesses and customers alike, while returns analytics deliver insights to optimize strategies and reduce return rates.

Key features include:

Unlock the full potential of your returns process and see how WeSupply can drive your revenue growth. Ready to see it in action? Book a demo today!

Looking Ahead: The Future of E-commerce Returns

Looking ahead, we can expect the landscape of e-commerce returns to continue evolving. With ongoing technological innovations and a shift towards more sustainable practices, businesses will need to adapt to maintain profitability while meeting customer expectations and reducing environmental impacts.

Conclusion: Rethinking Returns for the Modern E-commerce Landscape

To conclude, the true cost of an online refund extends beyond the refunded amount. It’s a complex matrix of financial costs, environmental impacts, and effects on customer relationships. Businesses must rethink their approach to returns in the modern e-commerce landscape, considering all these factors to create a sustainable and profitable model.

Businesses can transform the challenge of returns into an opportunity for growth and enhanced customer loyalty by striking a balance between financial considerations, customer satisfaction, and environmental responsibility.


In this exploration of the real price of an online refund, we’ve uncovered the multifaceted nature of returns. They carry significant financial and environmental costs and play a crucial role in customer relationships. However, with strategic planning, the right tools, and a focus on sustainability, businesses can effectively manage returns. By rethinking returns, businesses not only stand to reduce costs and environmental impact but also to enhance customer satisfaction, boost loyalty, and ultimately, secure their bottom line.

WeSupply stands as a comprehensive solution for businesses facing the challenges of online returns, blending automated management with customer-centric innovations to tackle the real price of refunds. By enhancing the returns process, WeSupply not only reduces operational costs and time but also addresses environmental concerns and fraud risks. From automated returns management, streamlined processes, and green returns to incentivizing exchanges and offering advanced tech solutions like QR code labels and a branded returns portal, WeSupply supports businesses in retaining sales and strengthening customer loyalty. These features collectively work to minimize the financial and environmental impact of returns, improve the customer experience, and protect against fraud and abuse, ultimately boosting the ROI for businesses. Ready to redefine your returns strategy and enhance your bottom line? Get Started with WeSupply today!

Combat inconvenience with proactivity & self service

Book a quick call with our experts to see how WeSupply can help you make returns easy for your customers with a beautiful, self-service solution that makes their experience easier while also providing new ways to lower costs and earn back revenue.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do online returns cost?

Online returns can cost retailers up to 39% of the original price, as per a report from logistics technology company Optoro.

How much of online purchases are returned?

Returns account for about 20-30% of online purchases, which amounts to a significant portion of consumer transactions and poses a substantial cost for retailers.

How does WeSupply tackle the challenges of online returns?

WeSupply offers a comprehensive solution that reduces the time, cost, and environmental impact associated with online returns. By automating returns management, streamlining the return process, and implementing green returns, WeSupply makes handling returns more efficient for businesses.

Can WeSupply help a business reduce returns fraud?

Yes, WeSupply’s intelligent fraud prevention system identifies and blocks customers attempting to exploit return policies. It also allows businesses to sync pre-existing block lists to prevent known abusers from making returns.

Does WeSupply have an Official Shopify App?

Yes, WeSupply does have an official Shopify App. You can download and begin to integrate it with your Shopify store.

Does WeSupply have an official Magento extension?

Yes, WeSupply has an official extension for Magento. The WeSupply x Magento integration allows for automating order tracking experiences, reducing customer inquiries, automating shipping email and SMS notifications, and providing a fully branded order tracking experience

Does WeSupply have an official BigCommerce App?

Yes, WeSupply has an official BigCommerce App. You can integrate WeSupply with your BigCommerce store to improve your post-purchase customer experience.

Jump Ahead!

In this article you'll learn:

Learn How To Create Successful Post Purchase Email Campaigns

Build an effective post-purchase email flow that helps you increase customer satisfaction and drive revenue growth!

WeSupply is transforming the way businesses build Customer Lifetime Value by offering positive exchange experiences. By making exchanges effortless, WeSupply encourages customers to revisit your website for any product, without price constraints. Key features like using store credits or gift cards as partial payments not only increase order values but also reinforce customer loyalty. This approach is instrumental in enhancing Customer Lifetime Value, as it turns a simple exchange into a delightful shopping experience, fostering long-term customer relationships and ongoing business growth.

Related articles