It’s no secret that in the fashion sector, where free shipping and free returns are standard, returns are rife. Fashion retailers are seeing returns rates upwards of 25% online compared to the 8% in store.

Last week I came home to find my girlfriend had bought six dresses, only to try them on and return the five she didn’t like.

With high return rates now just a fact of life for fashion retailers, there are a couple of things that you can do within your paid search campaigns to make life a little easier.

The first is making sure that you’re actually factoring returns into your ROAS (return on ad spend) figures when optimising.

There are numerous retailers that we’ve reviewed at Clicteq only to find that their 800% ROAS is closer to 400% because they’re not importing returns into their Google Ads account.

The other thing to do is to stop advertising to serial returners. Recently Asos have been threatening to block serial returners from using their website – you can take this a step further and stop advertising to them and driving them back to your website.

Get true conversion data in Google Ads by importing returns

The simplest way to track returns in Google Ads is to use enhanced ecommerce tracking through Google Analytics and import data from there.

By upgrading to enhanced ecommerce tracking this allows you access to the upload refund date function within Google Analytics.

By using the refund data import functions you’re able to import either full or partial refunds using the transaction IDs.

I’ll not cover how to set up enhanced ecommerce tracking here, however if you are interested you should read my guide on dealing with refunds in Google Analytics.

In summary there are four main stages:

  1. Upgrade to enhanced ecommerce tracking to give you access to the import refund option.
  2. Download the template spreadsheet and populate it with the transaction IDs of the returned products.
  3. Go to Admin > Property > Data Import within your Google Analytics account.
  4. Import your returns.

It is worth pointing out that this method does still have some limitations.

The first is in terms of attribution. This method attributes the return to the last customer click which is not great if you’re using another attribution model such as position based.

Despite this, it is however a lot better than having no returns data as many other fashion retailers do.

It’s also fairly time consuming as you have to upload the IDs on either a weekly or monthly basis depending on your transaction volume.

For very high-volume retailers you may want to consider linking your back-end systems that you use to track refunds, to Google Analytics with the Google Analytics management API.

Stop showing ads to serial returners

If you’re considering blocking serial offenders like Asos and Amazon have, then you will probably want to consider stopping advertising to them as well.

The easiest way to do this is using Google’s Customer Match feature. Customer Match allows you to import a list of email addresses into Google Ads and Google will match the list of email addresses to its users.

Simply export a list of serial returners from your back-end systems and import that into Google Ads using Customer Match and create an audience called “serial returners”

Once you’ve done this, you will want to go through your campaigns and set this as an excluded audience so that your ads won’t be shown to people on your exclusion list.

Conclusions

With return rate online upward of 25% and with some retailers seeing over half of the clothes that they sell being returned, it’s fundamental that you take this into consideration within your Google Ads account.

If you’re not already importing returns into Google Ads then the data you’re using to optimise your campaigns isn’t accurate. Without accurate data you are likely to overstate your profitability and make poor optimisation decisions. As such, It’s key to import returns data back into Google Ads.

Secondly, if you know who your profit-draining serial offenders are, why aren’t you blocking them? By using Google’s Customer Match you can ensure that your ads will never be shown to them again, allowing you to invest your advertising budget more effectively on attracting the types of clients that you actually want.