Luisana Cartay
Luisana Cartay 28 April 2017

Reduce Ecommerce Returns With Visual UGC (User Generated Content)

Ecommerce returns suck, but, unfortunately, returns are a major part of running an eCommerce business. But, there is a way to reduce return rates – and you don’t even have to do much of the work! Sound too good to be true? It’s not.

Did you know that $62.4 billion worth of apparel and footwear alone were returned in 2016 due to incorrect fit? Ecommerce returns suck, but, unfortunately, returns are a major part of running an eCommerce business. But, there is a way to reduce return rates – and you don’t even have to do much of the work! Sound too good to be true? It’s not. User-generated content (UGC) can reduce return rates for you with just a little extra work up front. This post will talk about how to use visual UGC to reduce return rates and how to get more customers to give you content. I’ll also give you a few examples of how other eCommerce companies are using UGC with great effect. So, let’s dive in!

Why People Return Products

Forget UGC for a moment. First, we need to understand why people return products in the first place. There are many reasons, but the most common are:

  • The product was no longer needed.
  • It didn’t match the website description.
  • It didn’t meet the customer’s expectations.
  • The company shipped the wrong product or size.
  • It was a gift purchase and the recipient didn’t like it.

These are some of the most common reasons for returns. But do you know the single biggest reason for eCommerce returns?

The item didn’t fit.

Going back to that $62.4 billion figure – that amounts to over 23% of all returns!

Of course, this only applies to you if you sell apparel of some kind – but many of the Photoslurp readership do, in fact, sell apparel.

So, how does visual UGC help solve these common return issues – particularly item fit?

Visual UGC: Why Does It Reduce ECommerce Returns?

User-generated content is so important to online retailers because as much as 70 percent of customers check reviews or ratings before making their final purchase.

That includes checking reviews to see how the apparel fits. Let me give you a personal example.

Last winter, I was in the market for a new pair of winter gloves. My hands tend to get so cold they physically start to hurt, so I really needed a good pair.

However, it wasn’t my first rodeo. I’ve bought plenty of gloves in the past, and I hated the way they fit my hand. Fit and comfort were both really important to me, so I always looked at reviews before making my purchase.

Here’s what I found:

The next review was even worse. Needless to say, I didn’t buy.

After searching through dozens of gloves on Amazon, I finally found one I liked. It had tons of reviews similar to this one:
ecommerce returns

This review swayed me because it talked about how it kept the buyer’s hands warm and fit as expected.

As you can see, I’m a part of that 70 percent who prioritizes reviews when purchasing products. This is because user reviews are typically unbiased and accurate, and paint a better picture of the quality of a product based on real use.

UGC reduces eCommerce returns because it helps customers buy the correct product (in the correct size) to begin with.

Now, Let’s Talk About Visual UGC.

It’s easy to understand how user reviews can help us pick the right size shirt. But, what about user-generated images, like those on Instagram? How can they help reduce return rates?

It’s simple, really: high-quality product photos drive sales.

eCommerce returns reduced by visual UGC

With user-generated photos, your customers get to see tons of high-quality product photography on different body types and from different people.

All this UGC also provides social proof for your brand and leverages people’s pack mentality.

In essence: Visual UGC reduces return rates by helping people choose the right product before they buy. 

Now, let’s talk how to get more UGC.

How To Encourage UGC

Getting a ton of user-generated photos and reviews can seem impossible when you’re just starting out. However, it can be as simple as asking for a review or starting a UGC campaign.

Let me break it down for you.

How To Get More Reviews

Think back to a time when you left a review of a product or a company. What motivated you to take action?

Chances are, it was one of two scenarios:

  1. You hated the product or service and left the review to keep others from making the same mistake of buying it.
  2. You liked the product or service and they asked you to leave a review. Because you had a good time with it, you left one.

The first scenario doesn’t require any action on the seller’s part – you left it on your own will.

The second, however, required them to reach out to you and ask. Otherwise, you probably never would have left a review. Here’s an example of how Amazon does this:

The fact of the matter is…

People tend to talk more about negative experiences than positive ones. 

We evolved to notice negative events more because our ancestors could be killed by not knowing a berry is poisonous. A great-tasting berry, however, isn’t a matter of life and death.

In essence: Prompt your users to give a review. Send them an email, reach out to them on social media, or call them and ask.

If you want to learn more about getting customer reviews, check out these tips by Search Engine Land.

Encouraging Visual UGC

Reviews are amazing, but what about getting users to share photos of themselves wearing your brand or using your product?

Think about it this way: According to video editing app Magisto, iOS and Android owners take an average of 150 new photos per month. That amounts to five photos a day!

The bottom line is this: Users are already taking and sharing photos. You just need to get them to take pictures while using your products and tag them with your hashtag.

How can you do that? Here’s a 3-step process:

Step 1: Do an audit to find your current UGC (or Use a Tool Like Photoslurp!)

If you haven’t been tracking it, there’s a good chance some of your customers already posted images of your products without you knowing.

To find them:

  • Search for your brand on Instagram using #yourbrand.
  • Search for hashtags that mention your product (i.e. #yourproduct).
  • If you have a brick-and-mortar store, search for anyone tagging your store location.
  • Use Photoslurp to make this process easier.


BONUS: Ebook Instagram Marketing Guide For Ecommerce Businesses

Understanding what kinds of photos people are already taking will help you with the next step, which is…

Step 2: Create a UGC campaign.

Hosting a campaign and giving away products to random winners is the first step in getting loads of UGC. People love associating themselves with good brands (and getting free stuff).

Step 3: Engage with your customers.

Be sure to respond to their comments. Also, don’t be afraid to comment on their photos, repost them on your social media accounts, and randomly give them free gifts. They don’t have to be expensive, either.

For example, Buffer sent me a sticker, which I absolutely loved! This sticker brought me closer to their brand through a psychology concept called the commitment and consistency bias.

Robert Cialdini talks about this in his best-selling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Basically, if a person makes a small commitment to your cause or brand, they are more likely to make a bigger commitment down the road.

The example Cialdini gave in his book was asking people in a neighborhood to place a sign in their yard that stood for a cause. If they were previously asked to place a sticker in their window, they were more likely to say yes to the sign than if asked to place the sign first.

Buffer took a similar approach, as I put their sticker on my laptop and am more likely to purchase their software because of the commitment and consistency bias.

(Yes, for those of you who are fans, that is a Legend of Zelda heart in the top left.)

Once you’ve built some momentum, keep it going! Engaged fans are hard to come by, so you should nurture those relationships. For more help, check out this guide to encouraging customers to post photos about your brand.

Let’s look at some examples now to see how other companies are using UGC to reduce return rates.

5 Examples Of Visual UGC

Here are a few real-world examples of companies taking advantage of UGC:

#1: Rent The Runway

Rent the Runway encourages their users to upload photos alongside their text-based reviews. In fact, they showcase their user photos where most eCommerce sites would show their own photos of the product.

They also prompt reviewers with questions like age, size purchased, fit, and even where they wore the outfit.

eCommerce returns

This kind of information helps visitors to imagine the outfit on themselves and decide better if it would be a good fit for them before they ever make a purchase.

#2: Modcloth

Modcloth is another excellent example of how to garner user reviews. Their users are encouraged to include detail on size as well as upload photos of themselves wearing the item.

eCommerce returns

Giving their customers such a detailed look at the size and fit of clothes reduces their return rate drastically. They even have individual ratings for fit, length, and quality.

#3: One Maurino

One Maurino sells watches and accessories. They also frequently run Instagram contests where their followers can upload photos and point back to One Maurino’s website to be entered in a contest.

eCommerce returns

These kinds of photos not only reduce return rates, but also help to drive traffic and leads back to One Maurino’s website.

#4: Lush Cosmetics

Lush Cosmetics runs an Instagram contest where they ask their customers to upload videos showing their bath bombs in action. They give random winners a package of bath supplies.

Here’s one example from a fan:

ecommerce returns

These videos help them advertise their products through word-of-mouth and also help their visitors understand what their products do. Personally, I had no idea what a “bath bomb” was until I saw this video!

This decreases the chance of eCommerce returns due to misunderstanding the product.

#5: Kayla Itsines

Kayla Itsines is a fitness coach who also sells training materials to help her customers lose weight and get fit. She randomly showcases photos from her followers who tag their before and after pictures when using her program.

ecommerce returns


While this isn’t exactly an “eCommerce” example per say, I wanted to include it to show you how this process can help you reduce returns and cancellations of all kinds of products and services.

This particular campaign also helps Itsines sell more of her program and motivate her followers to stick to her program. That likely results in extra benefits like more return customers and more word-of-mouth referrals!


Visual UGC can drastically cut down on the number of returns your eCommerce website gets.

Customer photos and reviews help other visitors decide which product and size is best for their body style before they make the purchase, which lowers the chance they’ll receive the wrong size and return the product.

UGC isn’t hard to get, either. Once you have a decent following, putting on a campaign is fairly straight-forward and easy. People love to be a part of a community!

How have you used UGC? Have you noticed a drop in return rates since implementing these methods? Let us know in the comments below! 

You can download our ebook: Instagram Marketing Guide For Ecommerce Businesses (registration required)

Author: Bill Widmer

Source: Photoslurp Blog

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