With the ability to purchase any product in a couple of clicks, the notion of scanning through folded clothes in a store for your size or the colorway you like is far removed.
Customers don’t think twice and purchase products they aren’t sure about, gift merchandise the recipient doesn’t like, buy a pair of pants that don’t fit right, or even get the wrong shade of lipstick due to oversight.
In the good old times’ of BC (before eCommerce), a customer wouldn’t buy anything they weren’t sure about as they were unwilling to trek down to the store to process exchanges. Visiting the store meant waiting in line at the billing section while the staff inspected the product quality and proof of purchase. There were discussions to be had and decisions to be made regarding store credit, exchanges, or refunds.
But with Fashion eCommerce, none of this matters. The trend of offering free shipping, significant discounts, and free returns has increased online sales and proportionately spiked the percentage of Fashion eCommerce returns. As many as 20% of customers buy clothes in a range of sizes so they can return the ones that don’t fit right.
Although physical stores can afford free returns, the costs of online returns that are state-wide, country-wide, or even national are probably taken too lightly.
2) Reasons that contribute to eCommerce Fashion Returns
The increased eCommerce traffic of online customers manifests in incredibly high exchange and return numbers. Some of the common factors that contribute to this phenomenon are listed below.
2.1) Consumer Psychology
Consumer psychology is strange and its presence is as varied and unpredictable as the number of humans in existence on this planet. Since shoppers are removed from the hassle of stepping out and driving to a store to purchase clothing, they end up window shopping online to kill time from the comfort of their home or workplace. At this point, they may impulse shop and, upon deliberation, decide to cancel their orders later that evening.
Customers may also choose to return a product upon receipt, either because they didn’t want it in the first place or because they changed their mind about it.
2.2) False Promises
Several tools are used in photoshoots to capture a product’s image for online posting. The use of light to bring out the shine in the fabrics, dramatic shadows, interesting contrasting background, binder clips to make the clothes fit better on the model, and photoshop to make it all seem perfect.
These are a few of the essential fuss-free tools used by photographers. Under the keen eye of brands who want to make inferior products appear better to push sales, their digital team often edits the merchandise to make them more aesthetically pleasing. Going just a little too far can leave a customer misguided regarding their purchase and chalk up your returns.
Every t-shirt or pair of socks or even that oversized pullover can and will get snagged if they can. Murphy demands his laws be obeyed. Leaving aside any minor damages caused in the production of goods, all activities relating to warehousing increase damage risks.
This is why it is crucial to align your warehouse picking and packing operations with the specialty labor your goods demand.
2.4) Fit Issues
The shopper usually needs to be close to a hundred percent sure that she can make that dress work before she walks it to the billing counter. In the absence of a trial room, they have no way of assessing the most critical aspect in purchasing clothing - the fit.
While a size 12 in the US is a size 16 in the UK, a size M in the US is a size L in the UK. Then again, EU sizes run smaller than US sizes, and an M size T-shirt made in China is likely to be smaller and narrower than the M size one manufactured in France.
Even the sizing within a brand may differ due to the varying nature of fabrics and techniques used. Most brands continue to operate without truly keying into the variable information when churning out new product lines in their standard patterns, which has an evident impact on fit and size.
2.5) Many Options
Digital shopping has also made customers fickle. Customers don’t care about brand loyalty when it comes to Fashion eCommerce. Looking for best buys and often experimenting with their choices points to higher rates of returns.
The same pair of shoes is available in multiple stores. There are way too many options in Fashion eCommerce for anyone’s good. When it comes to special occasions, customers may order the same or similar product from multiple eCommerce stores to ensure at least one reaches them before the deadline. This prompts them to cancel other delayed deliveries.
2.6) Holiday Season Spike
Eight of ten shoppers head out shopping at the last minute, and their safest choices lie in clothing and perfume. Four of the eight decide to shop online where the discounts are crazy, and at least three make a beeline for fashion products.
Families are notorious for gifting terrible fashion products for the holidays. While their intentions come from a place of love, a gift card would go a long way in reducing the number of returns crippling the eCommerce retail industry every year.
Considering their seasonal nature, most returned products must be shelved for a year or go into off-season discount sales.
3) Fraudulent product returns in Fashion eCommerce
Bracketing is the shopping behavior where customers purchase multiple options intending to return some. Since most fashion eCommerce return policies offer free return and refund, this practice is deemed low risk by habitual offenders.
Frowned upon by anyone with a conscience, wardrobing is the purchase of a garment for one time use and returned with tags intact for a refund. This trend was mocked and snarked by the Italian denim brand giant Diesel in their Fall 2019 campaign.
Purchasing branded merchandise online and returning counterfeits with swapped labels citing poor quality and demanding full refunds is a racket that takes eCommerce business time to identify and troubleshoot. With the anonymity that online shopping guarantees, this practice is rampant.
4) Why reducing products returns in eCommerce Fashion is important
4.1) Environmental Pollution
As the fashion cycles turn shorter, the possibility of a returned product returning to the full-priced shelf is next to none. And luxury brands have a reputation for dumping their merchandise rather than bringing down their brand reputation by offering discounts.
Clothing in the landfill releases toxic gases and fumes, and their dyes leak into the soil and the groundwater. eCommerce returns also contributes to higher Co2 emissions by heavy-duty trucks used by shipping companies.
Fashion eCommerce Returns multiplies the discarded waste of paper and plastic packaging. Nearly 3 billion trees are processed yearly to produce cardboard mailers, cartons, and other paper packaging.
4.2) Absent Turnaround
With fast-fashion retailers taking over the industry, the chances of a returned piece of clothing ready to go back on the rack and retail at full price is negligible.
This is not so much because of the quality checks, repair, and restocking that they need to go through, but because the return volumes are so high that they will never be able to go online in time.
Reducing eCommerce product returns is key because recouping return losses by putting the product back on sale is almost impossible.
5) Best practices to reduce eCommerce product returns in Fashion
5.1) Returns Processing
RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) integrated with your returns portal will allow for rule-based filtering and processing of customer return requests. While cutting down on inevitable manual errors, the workforce can be re-assigned to departments requiring supervision or handling.
Return Policies work hand in hand with RMAs by setting the various contexts for return and the following processes. Keeping the policy crisp and to the point ensures that your human work force and machines can easily follow the instructions.
Over-enhancement of any visuals will lead to dissatisfied shoppers, which is a crucial balance to maintain while improving the appearance of Fashion eCommerce merchandise.
Adopting a wide range of product visuals to the complexity every product demands makes it easier to educate the viewer on all aspects of that particular product. Including a larger number of visuals is a proven and effective tactic to push more customers to complete add-to-cart actions that will result in increased conversions while reducing returns.
A long detailed list of all the features and contents of the product goes a long way to improving customer expectations. While even a perfect product image may cause a piece of fabric to look like cotton, it is, in fact, the product description that will point to the fact that the tunic was manufactured using viscose.
Including the type of fits such as regular, skinny, slim, or wide, and its dimensions in inches and centi meters also help customers gauge the suitability of a product. A best practice is to include the measurements of a model and the size of the product they are wearing in the product image.
5.4) Fit Guide
The future of Fashion eCommerce is set to sail with the aid of 3D scan technologies. While the technology is pretty old, it has never been utilized thus far in the domain of eCommerce, where the potential of data is grossly ignored. More and more established players are investing in technology to reduce returns.
UGC (User Generated Content) is another excellent way to show the product in use by happy customers. Some Fashion eCommerce brands, especially those retailing lingerie or swimwear, walk customers through several steps of their fit specialist guide to provide guidance and suggestions to the shopper from their product line.
Fashion goods are particularly prone to structural and surface damages due to poor packaging. They travel a long way to reach customers around the globe, and any negligence in packaging will cost eCommerce brands dearly.
Similarly, any packaging material such as branded tissue paper or drawstring bag used to wrap the clothes should be carefully designed to avoid transferring of print or dye due to the vast changes in climatic conditions that your shipment may be subjected to.
5.6) Return Policy
Return Policies set the tone for your store. It dictates the terms of your return to your customer in simple and straightforward terms. It details the specifications that make a product eligible for a return, the deadline for a return request, and the customer’s options to complete the returns process.
This weapon will also safeguard your store from fraudulent practices and heavy losses.
6) Why do you need ClickPost for your eCommerce Fashion Returns?
ClickPost's returns management software is a game-changer for fashion eCommerce businesses. With the power of automation, ClickPost's software streamlines the entire returns process from start to finish. Not only does this make it easier for businesses to handle returns, but it also provides customers with a better returns experience.
Fashion and lifestyle brands such as Bewakoof, Indian Terrain, Giordano, Jaypore, Jockey, Rareism, Rarerabbit, Ritukumar and The Souled Store have integrated their eCommerce businesses with ClickPost’s returns management software.
ClickPost's software is transparent, giving businesses visibility into every step of the returns process. It automates and provides data on the three critical stages of reverse logistics.
The first step is authorizing the package for pickup. This deals with sorting and accepting returns requests from customers. The second step is preparing the shipment for pick up. This process entails the generation of return labels and assigning a shipping provider. And the final step is the actual transit of the package. ClickPost tracks and resolves all issues right from pick-up to delivery.
ClickPost's platform is powered by automation and machine learning, which ensures high accuracy and efficiency in processing returns. Armed with NPR management, this returns management powerhouse ensures that all pick-ups are successful. Any pick-up failure is automatically investigated and resolved by it to ensure your returns are safely on their way home to you.
In addition, this software can help fashion eCommerce businesses manage their inventory by providing them with real-time data on returned items. ClickPost's solution can also be customized to meet the specific needs of each business.
With this wealth of information, you can quickly troubleshoot any problems that may arise as well as strategize your operations better. Overall, ClickPost's software is an essential tool for any business that wants to streamline its returns process and provide a better experience for its customers.
What can you do to reduce returns in your fashion ecommerce business? First, ensure you’re providing accurate sizing information, product descriptions, and product images from all angles. Next, focus on quality control, inspect products before shipping and have a robust return policy. Finally, create a strategy for dealing with returned items. A unique approach to applying best practices to your fashion eCommerce business will see you with a reduced return rate and higher customer satisfaction.
1) Can you return clothes from online?
Most eCommerce businesses accept unused items with tags intact and in original packaging. However, due to state and federal laws, sales conditions, or sanitary reasons, you may not be eligible to return clothing such as lingerie and swimwear or discounted merchandise. Check the store’s return policy to see if your purchase is eligible for return.
2) How long do you have to return clothes online?
Some stores operate with a seven-day window, while others accept returns well into the second month. Check the store’s return policy for better insight regarding your purchase.
3) Do online stores have to offer refunds?
While eCommerce stores do not have to offer refunds unless the product they shipped is wrong or faulty, it is best practice to have the refund option open to shoppers.