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Fashion retailers are no strangers to item returns, it’s been a major stressor for the whole industry for a good while, but the rising popularity of fashion e-commerce is where it all escalated. Online fashion retail is one of the most fast-paced sectors within e-commerce with the highest return rates, reaching up to a startling 50%.
COVID-19 has turned the whole world upside down, and the fashion industry is not an exception. People’s shopping habits went through a major transformation, as the convenience of picking out clothes in the comfort of their own home, flexible return policy, etc. kept luring even more and more customers into the world of online fashion shopping. According to Shopify, fashion e-commerce is expected to grow by 10.6% annually, so it’s reasonable to assume that the return rates could skyrocket to the point where it’s completely out of control.
While being a common occurrence, high returns of online fashion businesses are extremely unsustainable. Not only does it cause the fashion industry to lose about $550 billion annually, but also staggering amounts of clothes end up in a landfill, a lot of which are returned items that have never gotten resold.
Online business challenges
Unlike traditional offline stores, online shopping does not allow trying on an item before purchasing it, which is one of the main reasons why fashion e-tailers struggle with much higher returns than brick-and-mortar stores. Whereas offline stores usually have to deal with the return rate of 8-10%, online fashion merchants experience an average 30% return rate, which in some cases could even go up to an overwhelming 50%, Shopify states.
Introducing quality changes to some business practices could really help the companies slow down the influx of returns, which would be beneficial for both the industry profits and the environment.
Both e-commerce fashion stores and consumers are contributing to the problem of high return rates, and there are many reasons for that.
Fit and sizing issues
Several sources claim that a vast majority of customer frustrations and returns are caused by poor fit and sizing. Not being able to try clothes on, the customers can only go by the sizing information listed on the website, so it’s crucial to put a lot of effort into sizing charts so that the clothes meet the customer’s expectations as much as possible. Some online retailers even go as far as using brand comparisons and virtual clothing try on technology.
Poor quality or manufacturing defects
Whereas brick and mortar stores allow the customers to instantly assess the quality of a product, notice poor stitching, low-quality fabric, or other imperfections, online stores only let you see a perfect enhanced picture of an item. Dissatisfaction with a real version of clothing often makes the shoppers request a return immediately, so strict quality control must be essential for online retailers.
Fashion items not meeting customers’ expectations is a very prevalent issue causing another huge influx of returns. At times an item of clothing the shopper receives ends up being nothing like what was listed on the website. Enhanced pictures, unclear descriptions that focus on selling the item rather than representing what the clothing item actually is like, lead to customer frustration, and therefore make them ask for a return. So providing a truthful and accurate description, and having several high-quality pictures of each product is a necessity.
Sometimes the reason for a return is as simple as consumers having a change of heart. What might have seemed perfect while placing an order could make the customers regret ever purchasing a particular item when trying it on.
Indulging return policy
It is common among fashion retailers to believe that a generous return policy is crucial for maintaining customers’ loyalty, otherwise, they are going to give their preference to another store. More often than not it is the case, as 49% of consumers acknowledged that return policy plays a significant role in choosing a store to shop from, Barclaycard states.
Here come practices for reducing return rates: Improving customer support
While a stress-free item return and good communication could bring in new loyal customers, the lack thereof is definitely going to make them never come back again. Therefore, focusing maximum effort on optimizing the communication between the company and the customer is vital for reducing return rates.
Enhance the delivery services
Since many shoppers choose an article of clothing for special events, not meeting their delivery deadlines is inevitably going to lead to severe frustration. Notoriously a large portion of negative feedback and returns is focused specifically on the delivery issues, so committing to clearly stating the company’s delivery information all across the website is a must.
Focus on trust and loyalty
Setting time frames for returns that are too tight could make the customers feel pressured to make a rapid decision and increase the likelihood of them sending an item back. Even though it might seem counterintuitive, a longer return window actually decreases the return rates and makes the customers happier.
Encouraging customers to give feedback and taking it into account is also essential for earning customers’ trust. Even a small bonus as a sign of appreciation for a customer would also make them want to come back again a little bit more.
Making return rates sustainable
Undoubtedly, returns are an inevitable part of the online fashion business, and consumers are entitled to returns if they are in any way dissatisfied with the purchases. However, by employing some of the strategies listed above, online fashion retailers can significantly reduce the detrimental effect of sky-high return rates. The key strategy for retailers is to constantly implement and use new practices if they are truly interested in how to reduce returns in ecommerce. By appealing to modern technologies, innovative tools, and efficient methods to cut clothing returns, retailers are going to have better profitability and market performance.