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Reducing online returns - what can fashion retailers do?

E‑commerce

Ed Maule

22nd April 2015

Reducing online returns - what can fashion retailers do? In a competitive online market, how you handle online returns can be a key differentiator between you and the competition, but still it remains one of the more difficult areas of ecommerce customer service to get right.
In a competitive online market, how you handle online returns can be a key differentiator between you and the competition, but still it remains one of the more difficult areas of ecommerce customer service to get right.

How helpful, quick, simple and flexible your returns policy is can be the difference between gaining repeat customers and sending them into the arms of a competitor. Making the returns process as painless as possible is one thing, but what if you could actually reduce the number of goods sent back to you in the first place? Surely this is the ideal situation?

One sector with a high number of returns compared to others is fashion retail. There are now solutions on the market that enable retailers to help their customers choose the right fit, saving them the hassle of trial and error online ordering and the potential frustration of purchasing the wrong size.

Some examples from across the industry are:

ASOS - Virtusize

US retailers report return rates of between 20 and 40 percent for online sales*, with wrong size and poor fit being cited as the number one reason for returning goods. On top of that, nearly 75% of retailers cover the cost of delivery and/or returns - an expensive exercise if return rates are high.

ASOS offer customers free shipping and free returns, allowing them to give customers the 'changing room experience' at home - essentially 'buy and try'. But it all costs money.

The online fashion giant has reduced fit-related returns by almost 50% with the introduction of a virtual fitting solution, Virtusize. This allows customers to compare measurements of an item they are looking to buy with an item they already own - displaying 2D silhouettes of both garments so customers can accurately compare and contrast sizes. Although many people are still taking advantage of the free shipping and returns, integrating a tool such as Virtusize helps to inspire confidence during the purchasing process.

One extra selling point for Virtusize is that once a user has an account and uploads garment templates, they can use the saved images on any retail site that has the tool.

RUNNING WAREHOUSE - Shoefitr

Running Warehouse, has managed to reduce fit-related returns by up to 23% with the introduction of an app which allows customers to find out more accurate information about shoe sizes. They are already seeing a high percentage of orders coming from customers who have utilised the Shoefitr app, using a database of internal shoe measurements acquired using 3D imaging.

The app compares the size and shape of a shoe a shopper is currently wearing with the one they want to purchase. It then recommends the best size and offers the customer more details about the shoe fit, comparing it with other sizes.

HOUSE OF FRASER - True Fit

One of the UK's leading department stores now uses a sizing tool, True Fit, as part of a redesigned touch-screen optimised site. With a significant volume of traffic coming from mobile devices, House of Fraser adapted its strategy to a 'mobile-first' approach, including the addition of True Fit in order to help decrease fit-related returns and issues.

Once True Fit was integrated into the House of Fraser site, customers filled in the details of their size, weight, body shape and other measurements. True Fit then uses that data to make a recommendation of the size that's best suited to that individual. Importantly, from a customer UX perspective, this size then appears on subsequent product pages meaning customers are directed to the right fit as they shop.

SOJEANS - Soselect

Sojeans integrated sizing tool, Soselect, offers customers a size profiling interface that produces personalised product recommendations.

In just four clicks, users of the site are able to find a perfect pair of jeans in terms of shape and style. Soselect asks for basic details of height and weight and then some more specific body shape questions. A smart addition to the tool then asks users to select what type of shoes they wear, further helping the site to give an informed and targeted product search result.

Some experts have noted that the tool is great for customers who have a 'price is no object' approach to online shopping. If the 100% shape and style fit is too expensive but a less suitable pair is in the right price range, then Soselect essentially becomes obsolete. However, if free delivery/returns is offered in conjunction, then it may be the case that customers purchase two or three different styles and sizes across a range of prices to find the best option.

With competition in the online fashion sector at a very high level, it's important that customers have a simple and cheap way of returning goods that don't quite match their expectations from a fit perspective. But the importance of repeat business is obvious and assisting customers with regards to sizing and fit during their purchasing journey can only help in reducing returns and increasing customer satisfaction. 'Getting it right' for customers is key to ensuring they continue to spend money on your site and with high expectations in terms of site performance and post-purchase customer service, user experience in fashion retail now includes making it simpler and easier to find a product that's the right size and shape.


*Econsultancy - https://econsultancy.com/blog/65026-how-fashion-ecommerce-retailers-can-reduce-online-returns/


Ed Maule
Ed Maule 22nd April 2015