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AfterShip Study Shows eCommerce Returns Outpaced Sales in 2023, Driven by Record Spending
[February 12, 2024]

AfterShip Study Shows eCommerce Returns Outpaced Sales in 2023, Driven by Record Spending

As the dust finally settles on the last holiday returns, insights from AfterShip's recent eCommerce Returns Report reveal that preparations for Black Friday and Cyber Monday may need to begin sooner than retailers think.

AfterShip's eCommerce Returns Report reveals that sales reached USD$38 billion over Cyber Week 2023-up 7.8% from 2022. This was driven primarily by record spending on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. But as sales increase, so do returns. Compared to 2022, returns were up 15% for 2023's peak season, outpacing sales. This pattern extended beyond Cyber Week, with December consistently seeing the highest monthly volume of returns.

Returns Growth Rate by Year (2021-2023)


Growth %
period vs
peak period)

Growth %

Growth %













Source: eCommerce Returns Report, Aftership, 2024

"Retailers are seeing a greater need for streamlined and robust returns solutions. Those who are prepared earlier are more well-equipped to handle the growing volume of both online sales and returns," said Andrew Chan, Chief Marketing Officer at AfterShip. "Our report demonstrates that although peak return times remain consistent, it's essential to optimize the process year-round to know what works best for your customers and remain competitive."

With global online sales projected to exceed USD$5.307 trillion by 20281, the eCommerce market presents new opportunities for businesses. The report showed that merchants who reduced friction in their returns processes were not only able to retain revenue, but also improve their customer experience by providing greater transparency and quicker resolutions for peak-season shoppers.

Additional key findings from AfterShip's eCommerce Returns Report:

  • Impact of automation: Merchants who leveraged automation for returns approval experienced a remarkable 100% reduction in the time taken to process returns, leading to a swift and efficient process for customers.
  • Fashion and Accessories set the trend: 75% of returns in 2023 were for the fashion and accessories industry.
  • Freedom of choice: Retailers who enabled three or more return resolution options had a revenue retention rate of more than 30%.

For more insights as well as strategies for fully optimizing returns processes, read AfterShip's eCommerce Returns Report here.

About AfterShip

AfterShip's customer experience platform sparks loyalty and engagement for global eCommerce brands and retailers. With a full suite of software covering the entire customer journey-from email automation, SMS marketing, and product reviews to shipment tracking, returns management, predictive delivery estimates, and multi-carrier shipping-AfterShip helps brands enhance the customer experience at every step. With 17,000+ customers, AfterShip is used by iconic brands, including TOMS, Kylie Cosmetics, Gymshark, DIME Beauty, and Harry's.

Recognized as a Retail Technology Power Player by Business Insider, AfterShip integrates with 1,000+ carriers worldwide and empowers top retailers and Fortune 500 companies to drive additional revenue, reduce operational costs, and improve CX.


The primary findings in this report are derived from a fixed sample of 1,487 organizations that are AfterShip Returns customers, analyzing over 200 thousand return requests (RMAs) between August 1, 2021 and January 18, 2024. Because this report focuses on post-purchase activities, we define "peak season" as December, when AfterShip customers see the highest monthly return requests (RMAs).

1 - Source: eCommerce - Worldwide, Statista Market Insights, 2024

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