11 Easy Steps to Reduce RTO (Return to Origin) in E-Commerce 2024

Tech Lead
May 15, 2024

As an e-commerce merchant, you understand the importance of delivering your products into the hands of customers—not just for the sale, but for the satisfaction and trust that follow.

However, when nearly 30% of online purchases are returned to the sender, the specter of Return to Origin (RTO) looms large, threatening to undermine both your profitability and customer relationships.

Think about the impact of each RTO case: not only is it a lost sale, but it also incurs additional shipping costs, handling issues, and restocking efforts.

The disruption extends beyond logistics; it affects customer loyalty and your brand’s reputation, turning what should be a straightforward process into a complex challenge.

But what if you could dramatically reduce these incidents? In this article, we introduce 11 strategic steps that can drastically lower your RTO rates.

From improving address accuracy to optimizing the delivery process, these targeted solutions can help ensure that more of your products reach their intended destinations, enhancing customer satisfaction and significantly boosting your bottom line.

Join us as we explore these powerful tactics that promise to transform your e-commerce operations in 2024.

What is RTO in Ecommerce?

In the realm of e-commerce, RTO stands for “Return to Origin.” It refers to a situation where shipped goods are returned to the seller’s warehouse or point of dispatch instead of reaching the customer.

This usually occurs after a product has been dispatched for delivery but fails to reach the customer for various reasons.

RTO is a significant concern for e-commerce businesses as it can lead to increased operational costs, wasted resources, and negative impacts on customer satisfaction and profitability.

Why Does RTO Occur?

RTOs can occur due to a multitude of factors, each contributing to the failure of a successful delivery. Here are some of the common reasons:

1. Incorrect Address Details: If a customer accidentally provides incomplete or incorrect address details during the checkout process, the likelihood of successful delivery plummets. Address verification can often prevent such errors but isn’t always foolproof.

2. Unavailability of Customer: Often, deliveries are attempted multiple times but are unsuccessful because the customer is not available to receive the package at the provided address. This is particularly common in residential deliveries where precise timing can be unpredictable.

3. Refusal of Delivery: Sometimes, customers may refuse to accept the delivery upon arrival due to dissatisfaction with the product (e.g., apparent damage to the packaging) or a change in preference.

4. Payment Issues: For cash on delivery orders, issues such as the absence of the required cash amount at the time of delivery can cause the customer to refuse the product, leading to an RTO.

5. Logistical Challenges: Issues within the logistics chain, such as courier inefficiencies, misrouting of packages, or regulatory challenges (especially in cross-border shipping), can also lead to RTO situations.

6. Fraudulent Orders: E-commerce platforms occasionally encounter fraudulent orders where the delivery details are intentionally falsified, leading to inevitable RTOs.

Understanding and addressing the reasons for RTOs is crucial for e-commerce businesses aiming to optimize their delivery processes, reduce operational losses, and improve customer satisfaction.

How to calculate Return to Origin (RTO)?

The Return to Origin (RTO) rate is a metric used in e-commerce and logistics to measure the percentage of orders that are not delivered successfully and are returned to the seller’s warehouse. A low RTO rate is desirable as it indicates an efficient delivery process.

Here’s how to calculate the RTO rate:

  1. Gather the data on the number of orders shipped for a specific period (e.g., month, quarter, year). This data can be obtained from your order management system or shipping carrier.
  2. Find the number of orders that were returned undelivered within the same period.
  3. Divide the number of returned orders by the total number of orders shipped and multiply by 100% to express the result as a percentage.

Here’s the formula:

RTO rate = (Number of returned orders / Total number of orders shipped) * 100%

For example, if you shipped 100 orders in a month and received 15 of them back due to failed delivery, your RTO rate would be:

RTO rate = (15 orders / 100 orders) * 100% = 15%

A lower RTO rate indicates a smoother fulfillment and delivery process, reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction.

11 Easy Ways to Reduce RTO in E-commerce

1. Double Verify COD Orders

Double verify COD orders by calling or messaging customers to ensure they are interested in the product and have provided correct contact details and delivery addresses. This can be done manually or using AI-powered systems.

2. Clear and Detailed Product Descriptions

Provide complete information about the product, including its features, specifications, dimensions, and materials. This helps customers understand what they’re buying and reduces the chances of receiving the wrong or unsatisfactory products.

3. Consistent Tracking Updates

Keep customers informed about their orders by providing real-time updates on the order status. Regular communication through SMS, email, or WhatsApp notifications helps customers track their deliveries, reducing uncertainty and minimizing returns.

4. Prioritize Customer Delivery Preferences

Give customers the option to choose their preferred delivery time slots, addresses, or methods. By accommodating these preferences, you can enhance the delivery experience and decrease the chances of missed or failed deliveries.

5. Promote Pre-payment Options

Provide customers with a variety of payment options, but promote prepaid options by offering benefits. This can help reduce COD losses, which are a significant contributor to RTO.

6. Offer Exchange Options for Returns

When customers want to return a product, provide easy exchange options. Allow them to exchange the item for a different size, color, or variant instead of a refund. Clearly communicate the exchange process, including return shipping labels, instructions, and the expected time for the exchange.

7. Implement a Return Policy

Create a return policy that outlines the rules for returns and exchanges. This should include information on what items can be returned, for what reasons, and within what timeframe.

8. Enhance Product Illumination

Use attention-grabbing headlines, bulleted lists of key characteristics, and paragraphs to expand on what makes the product unique. Focus on giving solutions rather than just describing benefits.

9. Value Consumer Reviews

Encourage customers to leave reviews and provide feedback. This helps identify areas for improvement and can reduce RTO requests.

10. Introduce Product Videos

Add product videos to your product detail page. This can help customers better understand the product and reduce returns due to mismatched expectations.

11. Provide a Post-Purchase Confirmation Message

Send a post-purchase message to customers, informing them about their order and reducing objections that lead to refunds.

Benefits of Return to Origin in E-Commerce

While Return to Origin (RTO) is often seen as a challenge in e-commerce, there are several benefits that businesses can derive from a well-managed RTO process. Understanding and leveraging these benefits can help improve operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and overall profitability. Let’s explore the key advantages of RTO in e-commerce.

1. Improved Customer Trust and Loyalty

Why it matters: A flexible and customer-friendly return policy can enhance trust and encourage repeat business.

How it benefits: Customers are more likely to purchase from a retailer that offers a hassle-free return process. Knowing they can return items if needed, customers feel more confident in their purchase decisions, leading to increased loyalty and long-term customer relationships.

2. Better Inventory Management

Why it matters: Effective handling of returns helps maintain accurate inventory levels and optimize stock management.

How it benefits: Returned items, when managed efficiently, can be quickly restocked and resold, reducing inventory holding costs. Accurate tracking of returns also helps in better forecasting and inventory planning, ensuring that popular items are always available.

3. Enhanced Product Quality and Selection

Why it matters: Analyzing return reasons provides valuable insights into product issues and customer preferences.

How it benefits: By understanding why customers return products, businesses can identify and rectify quality issues, improving overall product standards. Additionally, feedback from returns can guide the selection of new products that better meet customer expectations, enhancing the overall product offering.

4. Cost Savings Through Efficient Logistics

Why it matters: Streamlined RTO processes can reduce logistics and operational costs.

How it benefits: Efficient return logistics, such as consolidated shipping for returns and optimized return routes, can significantly lower transportation costs. Implementing automated systems for handling returns also reduces labor costs and minimizes errors, leading to further savings.

5. Data-Driven Decision Making

Why it matters: Return data is a valuable source of information for making informed business decisions.

How it benefits: Detailed analysis of return patterns and reasons enables businesses to make data-driven improvements in various areas, from product development to marketing strategies. This leads to better alignment with customer needs and market trends, ultimately driving growth and profitability.

6. Competitive Advantage

Why it matters: Offering superior return policies can differentiate a business from its competitors.

How it benefits: A customer-centric return policy can be a key differentiator in a competitive market. Promoting a hassle-free RTO process can attract customers who prioritize flexibility and convenience, giving the business a competitive edge.

7. Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility

Why it matters: Properly managed returns can support sustainability efforts and reduce environmental impact.

How it benefits: By refurbishing and reselling returned items, businesses can minimize waste and contribute to a circular economy. This not only helps the environment but also appeals to environmentally conscious consumers, enhancing the brand’s reputation.

8. Enhanced Customer Insights

Why it matters: Returns provide direct feedback from customers, offering insights into their preferences and pain points.

How it benefits: Businesses can use return data to understand customer behavior and preferences better. This information can inform product design, marketing campaigns, and customer service improvements, leading to a more tailored and satisfying shopping experience.

9. Opportunity for Upselling and Cross-Selling

Why it matters: Returns provide an opportunity to engage with customers and suggest alternative products.

How it benefits: When processing returns, businesses can recommend similar or complementary products that might better meet the customer’s needs. This not only helps in retaining the sale but also increases the average order value through upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

How an RTO (Return to Origin) Order is Processed in E-Commerce

Return to Origin (RTO) orders are a common occurrence in e-commerce, where a product is returned to the seller due to various reasons such as delivery issues, incorrect address, or customer refusal. Understanding the RTO process is crucial for managing returns efficiently and minimizing associated costs. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how an RTO order is processed in e-commerce.

1. Initiation of Return

Why it happens: An RTO order is initiated when a delivery attempt fails, or the customer refuses to accept the package.

Common reasons:

  • Incorrect or incomplete address
  • Customer not available at the delivery location
  • Customer refusal due to product damage or dissatisfaction

2. Notification to Seller

What happens: The courier service notifies the seller about the failed delivery attempt and the initiation of the RTO process.

How it works: The notification typically includes details about the reason for return, tracking information, and expected return date. This helps the seller prepare for the incoming return.

3. Return Shipping

What happens: The courier service begins the process of returning the package to the seller’s warehouse or fulfillment center.

How it works: The return shipment follows a reverse logistics process, which may involve multiple transit points before reaching the seller. The courier service updates the tracking information to keep the seller informed about the return status.

4. Inspection and Quality Check

What happens: Upon arrival at the seller’s facility, the returned package undergoes a thorough inspection and quality check.

How it works: The inspection process involves verifying the condition of the product, packaging, and any accessories included. The goal is to determine whether the product can be restocked, refurbished, or needs to be discarded.

5. Inventory Update

What happens: Based on the inspection results, the product is either restocked or marked as non-sellable.

How it works: If the product is in good condition, it is returned to inventory and made available for sale again. If the product is damaged or defective, it is logged accordingly, and the inventory system is updated to reflect the changes.

6. Customer Notification

What happens: The seller informs the customer about the status of their return and any next steps.

How it works: Communication with the customer is crucial for transparency. The seller may provide information about refunds, exchanges, or any additional actions required from the customer’s side.

7. Refund or Exchange Processing

What happens: If the customer is eligible for a refund or exchange, the seller processes it accordingly.

How it works: For refunds, the seller initiates the process through the original payment method. For exchanges, the seller ships the replacement product to the customer. Timely processing is essential to maintain customer satisfaction.

8. Data Analysis and Reporting

What happens: The seller analyzes RTO data to identify patterns and areas for improvement.

How it works: By reviewing RTO reasons and trends, the seller can implement measures to reduce future RTO instances. This may involve improving address verification processes, enhancing product descriptions, or optimizing customer service.

9. Feedback Loop

What happens: Insights gained from RTO analysis are used to refine and improve e-commerce operations.

How it works: Continuous improvement is achieved by addressing the root causes of RTO. Implementing feedback from customers and internal audits helps in minimizing return rates and enhancing overall operational efficiency.

Certainly! Here’s a detailed article on strategies to reduce cash-on-delivery (COD) losses in e-commerce:

Strategies to Reduce Cash-on-Delivery (COD) Losses in E-Commerce

Cash-on-Delivery (COD) remains a popular payment method in many regions due to the trust it offers consumers. However, it poses significant risks and losses for e-commerce businesses, including return rates, fraud, and logistical complications. To mitigate these losses, consider implementing the following strategies:

1. Pre-Order Verification

Pre-order verification helps confirm the legitimacy of the order before dispatching the goods.


  • Automated Calls or SMS: Use automated systems to call or send SMS to customers asking for order confirmation.
  • Manual Confirmation: For high-value orders, consider manual verification through a customer service representative.


  • Reduces fake orders and ensures customer commitment.
  • Decreases return rates significantly.

2. Advance Payment Incentives

Encourage customers to pay online by offering discounts or other incentives for prepaid orders.


  • Discounts: Offer a small percentage discount for choosing online payment methods.
  • Loyalty Points: Provide loyalty points that can be redeemed on future purchases.


  • Shifts customer behavior towards online payments.
  • Reduces the reliance on COD.

3. Clear Return and Refund Policies

A well-defined return and refund policy can build customer trust and reduce the perceived need for COD.


  • Transparency: Clearly outline the return and refund process on your website.
  • Hassle-Free Returns: Simplify the return process to make it convenient for customers.


  • Increases customer confidence in prepaid orders.
  • Reduces the risk of COD-related losses.

4. Enhanced Fraud Detection

Implementing robust fraud detection systems can help identify and prevent fraudulent COD orders.


  • Machine Learning Algorithms: Use machine learning to analyze order patterns and detect anomalies.
  • Blacklist Fraudulent Customers: Maintain a database of customers who have previously placed fraudulent orders.


  • Minimizes losses due to fraudulent orders.
  • Protects the business from repeat offenders.

5. Partial COD Payments

Require a partial upfront payment while allowing the rest to be paid via COD.


  • Fixed Percentage: Set a fixed percentage of the order value to be paid online.
  • Refundable Deposits: Offer refundable deposits that secure the order but are returned upon successful delivery.


  • Ensures customer commitment.
  • Reduces the financial impact of order returns.

6. Optimized Delivery Process

Streamlining the delivery process can help minimize COD-related losses.


  • Efficient Routing: Use advanced routing algorithms to optimize delivery routes.
  • Delivery Confirmation: Implement systems where delivery agents can confirm delivery in real-time.


  • Reduces delivery times and costs.
  • Minimizes the risk of failed deliveries.

7. Customer Education

Educate customers about the benefits and security of online payments.


  • Content Marketing: Create blog posts, videos, and infographics that explain the safety and benefits of online payments.
  • Customer Support: Train customer support to guide customers through online payment processes.


  • Increases customer trust in online payments.
  • Gradually shifts customer preference away from COD.

8. Flexible Payment Options

Offer a variety of secure and convenient payment options to reduce reliance on COD.


  • Digital Wallets: Integrate popular digital wallets like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Wallet.
  • Buy Now, Pay Later: Provide options for installment payments or pay-later services.


  • Makes online payments more appealing.
  • Reduces the necessity for COD.

9. Reliable Logistics Partners

Partner with reliable logistics companies that have experience handling COD deliveries.


  • Partner Selection: Choose logistics partners based on their performance and reliability.
  • Performance Monitoring: Regularly monitor and review the performance of your logistics partners.


  • Ensures efficient and secure delivery of COD orders.
  • Reduces losses due to logistics failures.

10. Customer Feedback and Support

Collect feedback and provide excellent customer support to address COD issues.


  • Surveys and Reviews: Encourage customers to leave feedback about their COD experience.
  • Support Channels: Offer multiple support channels, such as live chat, email, and phone support.


  • Identifies and resolves issues promptly.
  • Improves overall customer satisfaction and trust.

11. Data Analytics

Leverage data analytics to gain insights into COD transactions and identify areas for improvement.


  • Transaction Analysis: Analyze data to identify trends and patterns in COD transactions.
  • Predictive Analytics: Use predictive analytics to forecast demand and optimize inventory.


  • Informed decision-making based on data insights.
  • Improved efficiency and reduced COD losses.


Reducing Return to Origin (RTO) rates in e-commerce is crucial for maintaining profitability, enhancing customer satisfaction, and streamlining operations.

By implementing these 11 strategic steps—from verifying COD orders and providing detailed product descriptions to offering flexible return policies and leveraging data analytics—you can significantly reduce RTO incidents.

Prioritizing clear communication, accurate address details, and customer preferences will not only decrease RTO rates but also foster a more positive shopping experience for your customers.

With a comprehensive approach, you can minimize the disruptions and costs associated with RTO, ultimately driving your e-commerce business toward greater success in 2024 and beyond.

By understanding the root causes of RTO and applying targeted solutions, you can ensure more of your products reach their intended destinations, build stronger customer relationships, and achieve a competitive edge in the market.

Start implementing these strategies today to see tangible improvements in your delivery efficiency and customer satisfaction.

FAQ’S ON Return to Origin (RTO)

1. What is the difference between RTV and RTO?

RTV (Return to Vendor) and RTO (Return to Origin) are two different processes that occur when a customer returns a product. The main difference between RTV and RTO is the destination of the returned product. In RTV, the product is returned to the vendor or supplier, whereas in RTO, the product is returned to the original shipping location or the seller.

2.What is the difference between RTO and reverse logistics?

RTO is a part of the reverse logistics process. Reverse logistics involves the process of moving goods from the customer back to the seller or manufacturer, whereas RTO specifically refers to the return of a product to its origin due to various reasons such as customer dissatisfaction, damage, or incorrect delivery. Reverse logistics is a broader term that encompasses RTO, as well as other return-related processes.

3. What Happens After An RTO Is Incurred?

After an RTO is incurred, the product is returned to the original shipping location or the seller. The seller then inspects the product to determine the reason for the return and decides whether to refund, replace, or repair the product. The seller may also update their inventory and shipping processes to prevent similar issues in the future.

4. How many times do couriers reattempt delivery before returning the order?

The number of times a courier reattempts delivery before returning the order varies depending on the courier’s policy and the specific circumstances of the delivery. Typically, couriers will make 2-3 attempts to deliver a package before returning it to the sender.

5. Do couriers charge for RTO?

Yes, couriers often charge for RTO services. The cost of RTO can vary depending on the courier, the weight and dimensions of the package, and the distance it needs to be returned. Sellers may pass on these costs to the customer or absorb them as a business expense.

Try it out now!

Share this Aasaan story
Get started
Experience the most powerful way to build beautiful & engaging shopping experience for your business here.