9 min read

How Can a 3PL Help with Shopify Returns? 

Geoff Whiting

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The eCommerce landscape often positions returns as a growing part of doing business. Still, there are clear and specific steps you and your partners can take to reduce them, especially for Shopify returns. 

While you can’t avoid some of your products being part of the 20% of items bought online that get returned, there are strategies you can use to reduce those occurrences and the impact on customers that will always want to return something. Your 3PL is not only a safeguard against returns but can also turn Shopify returns into a positive experience that makes customers want to shop from you again and again.

returns warehouse services

3PLs help you address Shopify returns 

3PLs like Red Stag Fulfillment operate to smooth the returns process, avoid losses, and improve long-term growth opportunities. We do this in a few fundamental ways: 

  • Reduce the likelihood of returns by ensuring 100% order accuracy and on-time fulfillment. 
  • Speed up the Shopify returns process with dedicated teams to receive and check goods. 
  • Automate updates to inventory and return statuses to speed up refunds. 
  • Clear order and inventory dashboards so your customer service team can easily see the status of all orders and returns. 

Shopify even encourages you to consider a 3PL specifically for reverse logistics. That’s because we handle the entire eCommerce fulfillment process, from inbound to sending orders to managing returns. You don’t have to worry; just focus on the next sale. 


The state of Shopify returns, according to Shopify 

ECommerce businesses should treat returns as “inevitable, but manageable,” says Shopify. It notes that more than 10% of all online purchases are returned. But when you consider the number of stores that don’t accept returns or actively work to prevent this through less-than-upstanding means, the average eCommerce company will face 20% or slightly higher returns. By understanding that returns will happen, companies can instead work directly or with partners like 3PLs to reduce the friction of any return.

ecommerce returns

Start with prevention 

Benjamin Franklin told fire-threatened Philadelphians in 1736 that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The quip stuck because surely it is better to prevent a fire than fight one. Returns management in the eCommerce space often feels like rushing to put out fires, so let’s take old Ben’s advice. 

Simply put, do everything in your power to eliminate and reduce returns. 

Website and sales 

  • Ensure photos and descriptions are accurate. 
  • Verify listed shipping times and options are available. 
  • Check that deals and promotions work. 
  • Walk through the checkout process to look for errors. 
  • Review after-sale emails to ensure customers are getting tracking info and other details. 

Order fulfillment and 3PLs 

  • Add checks and scans to ensure accurate pick and pack. 
  • Verify labels and details on packaging. 
  • Check integrations with Shopify carts and processes. 
  • Review packaging so that goods arrive safely while controlling costs. 
  • Verify SKUs and shipped items match records and item information on your store. 

Add in communication and care 

Your primary customer-facing effort is to communicate clearly and regularly when returns do happen. Keep people informed of what is happening. Make it easy to track shipments. Send regular emails or post to an account so that the customer knows the process. 

Let the customer know whenever any step in the process moves forward.

At the same time, you’ll want to protect the customer and your business. So, consider offering store credit. If you provide pre-paid labels, choose slower ground options. Verify returns against purchase and account histories. And run quality checks on all returned goods to see what you can restock safely, or if a customer is trying to return something they damaged. 

Shopify has a returns threshold program that can help you spot bad actors or take steps to protect your business. 

Shopify returns and customer loyalty 

The quality of the returns experience can sway online shoppers. Improvements you make to speed, accuracy, ease, and clarity all benefit your operations. They turn returns into potential recurring shoppers, protecting margins in the long run. 

According to Shopify, that protection is true whether you offer replacements, full credit for returns, or exchanges using gift cards or account credits. One important note is that it sees more than 60% of shoppers wanting that credit or exchange within 30 days of purchase. Delays are one of the biggest contributors to a negative returns experience. 

However, getting it right within that window has major potential. Some 92% of people happy with your returns process will buy from you again

A note on Shopify Payments 

Many Shopify stores are turning to Shopify Payments because this streamlines their ability to accept major payment methods and reduces the need to set up a third-party payment provider. That convenience comes with an edge when you get to Shopify returns. 

According to the company, when you use Shopify Payments and issue a refund, that total is taken out of your next payout. These refunds also take about 10 business days to be credited, so your customers will need to wait. For U.S. companies using the tool, Shopify may take the balance from your connected bank account if the next scheduled payout does not have enough funds to cover the return. 

That process can be difficult if you’re trying to grow your business. So, work with a reliable 3PL that ensures order accuracy and protection of goods in transit to minimize the chance of returns.

processing returns

3PL process support for Shopify returns 

3PLs like Red Stag Fulfillment are designed to manage the entire order fulfillment process, including reverse logistics that cover returns processing. By letting our experts manage it, you and your customers can have an easier time and get back to buying and selling sooner. 

Your 3PL will work with you to help establish Shopify returns best practices, including creating clear policies with requirements for any return to be accepted. We can also perform quality checks, including packaging, to ensure that you only resell reliable goods. Automating our end makes it easy for you to communicate with customers. That way, you (and they) know the status of any return running through the system.

A 3PL can integrate with Shopify to support creating returns labels and tracking these elements as they return to the warehouse. From there, the 3PL will follow your quality assurance requirements and either add verified goods back to inventory counts or process and recycle items that don’t meet your standards. Inventory systems will automatically update the relevant SKU counts and warehouse location. That means you have the correct count of available new, used, refurbished, and other classifications at any time. 

Partnering with a 3PL and relying on their experts can lower the costs associated with returns thanks to our talented warehouse staff and negotiated rates with carriers. We effectively manage reverse logistics to reduce product loss or shrinkage, improve visibility into packages and processes, and provide enough room to house additional parts or packaging to get a returned item back up to sellable status.

The Red Stag Fulfillment warehouse in Knoxville, Tenn.

Simplify and improve more than just Shopify returns 

Shopify returns can be an expensive cost of doing business. However, a generous returns policy can help secure more customers and engender long-term loyalty. Most eCommerce businesses decide to honor at least some returns to take advantage of that potential expanded customer relationship. 

Turning to a partner like Red Stag helps you turn potential frustrations into growth prospects by reducing the stress and hassle associated with Shopify returns. We’ll work together to develop plans for effective, affordable returns that prioritize the customer experience. They get a smooth refund, you get only quality materials added back to inventory, and there’s no need for you to manage any of the warehouse staff or work.  

It’s a simple win-win to turn potential revenue losses into long-term opportunities.

Make Returns Work For You

ECommerce and Shopify returns FAQ 

What return rate should eCommerce companies expect? 

The average eCommerce return rate is around 20%, though some stores or categories can be closer to 30%. Contact us to learn how our experts help companies like yours keep return rates low.

What’s the process for running a Shopify return? 

You’ve got a few options for managing the process. On your side, it starts with your Shopify admin using the Orders page to track customer return requests and send them initial details like return shipping labels. Customers can initiate a return on your store or through Shopify services like the Shop app. 

Most eCommerce brands offer returns within a certain window, often 30 to 60 days from the date of purchase. You may also set other requirements, such as requiring returned packages to be unopened, that will be verified when a product is returned. From there, you or your 3PL will verify this status and update the order, enabling you to refund the customer automatically. 

What are some returns best practices? 

We’ve got a complete article detailing best practices for returns and refunds here, but some highlights worth mentioning include: 

  • Make your policy clear and easy to find. 
  • Set specific deadlines. 
  • Simplify the process of creating return labels. 
  • Pay for free shipping on large orders. 
  • Set specific requirements for your 3PL to check. 
  • Use automation to speed up the process wherever possible. 
  • Re-engage customers after a return to increase the likelihood of an additional purchase. 

What makes Red Stag different for returns? 

What makes the Red Stag Fulfillment returns process different is what makes all our fulfillment services stand out. Our relentless focus on quality means you can have a “set it and forget about it” approach to being your eCommerce fulfillment service provider.

“We handle the returns just like the client is handling the returns,” says Red Stag Fulfillment Chief Operating Officer Dave Carroll. “The biggest thing, from a client perspective, is that returns are seamless.” 

Read more about our specific returns and reverse logistics steps in this article.

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