1) What is Fashion eCommerce?
Fashion eCommerce is a multi-platform and multi-channel community developed by fashion brands with and for fashion enthusiasts. Functioning through three main modes, Fashion eCommerce can operate as a B2B (business to business), B2C (business to consumer), or C2C (consumer to consumer) model.
Fashion ecommerce can be defined as the sales and purchase of fashion apparel or related products through an online medium. The sheer convenience and the ease of shopping for the customer have led to an exponential growth of the fashion ecommerce sector
eCommerce brands needed to attract and convenience an audience that had never shopped online. Shoppers were wary of the quality and logistics of eCommerce purchases. In order to entice them to buy, eCommerce fashion brands had to offer ecommerce returns.
Fashion eCommerce stores have a fraction of the overhead physical stores do. So it seemed a good idea to up their online sales by offering this simple guarantee. But, this is where hellfire & brimstone came into play.
While the average brick-and-mortar store had a return rate in the single digits, online return rates could hit upwards of 25 %. In 2018, an online fashion brand based in California did close to 500 million USD in sales. But they spent over 530 million USD on eCommerce fashion returns without accounting for reverse logistics costs.
2) 10 Tips for Businesses to control Fashion eCommerce Returns
Extended return periods, helping customers find their perfect fit, and managing their expectations are the foundation of controlling Fashion eCommerce Returns. Let’s delve a little more into how these are achievable with simple tweaks to the operations.
2.1) Return Policy
It is exceedingly important that the return policy is clear and easily understandable. With concise explanations of the responsibility of costs and the modes of return, customers find the return processes easier. This reduces the wrath that online stores might face from disgruntled shoppers.
Another top piece of advice is to have the return policy stand out and scream the rules in the header, footer, or wherever they apply. Especially if the brand reserves the right not to refund or replace a product. It helps when shoppers can read this clearly in terms of services so they are aware of the shop’s rules.
Always a great choice to automate what is possible when it is possible. Personal help is all well and fine in small numbers, but the sheer quantities faced in Fashion eCommerce Returns demand the presence of a god. Multiple RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) options are available to integrate for Fashion eCommerce.
2.3) Product Visuals
The make or break of returns has got to be product visuals. These images under go a lot of optimisation and design work to make them appealing and faster to load. It is no wonder that there are tribes of annoyed shoppers out there bonding over their misled purchases by brands and marketplaces.
Another working tip that will help eCommerce businesses dealing with goods relating to fashion is to offer high-res images that the viewer can zoom into for viewing details.
An add-on to this feature is to offer 360-degree photos and product videos. Nike pushes the boundaries by providing augmented reality technology that scans the user’s feet to offer the best fit, design, and size solutions from their product line.
2.4) Product Descriptions
Fashion eCommerce brands can reduce their returns by not skimping on product descriptions. Just as in the case of visuals, brands need to tailor the content to the product. Customer expectations are manageable by being as accurate as possible and addressing all the questions a shopper might have regarding the product.
A well-planned and well-written description goes a long way in educating a customer about their product choice. Brands have to remove any adjectives and phrases that may turn features into outright marketing and focus solely on the product description. Fashion eCommerce brands can offer customers genuine insights about the product that they would be able to deduce for themselves in a physical store.
2.5) Buyer Feedback
Showcasing buyer feedback is a great way to garner the trust of shoppers. Customer Feedback indicates if a size runs true or the nature of the product can help customers make decisions regarding their purchase and reduce returns. This allows you to create trust with the consumer and encourage them to make a purchase.
2.6) Product FAQs
Product FAQs are a great way to answer any questions a shopper might potentially have. While the Fashion eCommerce brand can answer these, they also have the option of roping customers who have previously purchased the product to answer on their behalf. This helps with sales while reducing returns.
2.7) Test Before Purchase
Smaller premium and high-end Fashion eCommerce brands can even offer a test before-purchase feature. This works for product types that have high margins.
In these cases, customers may only keep the products that interest them and return the rest. Some brands offer this service to customers with loyalty programs or VIP customers. Sending out free coupons or goodies along with the products is a great way to harness customer loyalty. Using this feature as applicable reduces the scope of returned merchandise.
2.8) Personalized Suggestions
A personalized suggestion pop-up based on a customer’s past purchase and return history may help guide a customer toward assured conversions.
A returning customer might have to scroll through the endless inventory to pick what they like. Why waste their time? This option shortens the purchase decision time. Fashion eCommerce brands can help cut down their return rate by displaying personalized suggestions.
Transportation is the most crucial task in an online business, and ecommerce businesses should prioritize it accordingly. Oversized packaging with styrofoam, air packets, or cardboard is necessary to maintain the product’s structural integrity. Packaging is an essential checkpoint for eCommerce businesses.
In case of Fashion ecommerce, finding the right balance is important. While clothing and apparel products are not fragile, they can be ruined if the package is not properly sealed. Similarly, finding the right size of the package also becomes important as fashion products are usually much more compact.
2.10) Size Guide
Missized products are a raging cause for Fashion eCommerce Returns. By displaying size guides and brand comparisons, it is easier to inform shoppers about this merchandise aspect.
This is an area that benefits from using UGC (User Generated Content). Fashion eCommerce brands can also choose to photograph their products on mannequins or models of different sizes and body types. By doing this, customers have an idea of what the clothing will look like if they wear it themselves, making their purchase decision a little easier.
Some of the big names in Fashion eCommerce are paving the way to bettering online shopping experiences. One of the world’s leading retailers, Asos, is jumping into the AR (Augmented Reality) game to help its customers make informed choices. Amazon’s Virtual Fitting Room is currently in the process of development.
3) Why does the Fashion Industry have High eCommerce Returns?
Let us get the topic of serial returners out of the way before we head on to the salient points of Fashion eCommerce returns. Serial returners are customers that frequently return their purchases. This practice impacts several facets of Fashion eCommerce.
Right from user experience (UX), and logistics, and even the impact their frequent returns have on the environment. While this is one of the most common shopping habit that contributes to high eCommerce returns in fashion, there are other aspects that affect purchase decisions.
3.1) Absence of Trial Feature
No shopper ever, unless with fraudulent intentions, purchases a garment in a physical or online store with the intention of returning it. Trial rooms help shoppers inspect, compare and deliberate the contents of their shopping bags before purchase. This moment of decision-making is pretty crucial in the shopping process.
The absence of a trial room in Fashion eCommerce meddles with the decision-making process, drastically increasing the rate of returns. If you deal with accessories or clothing that can differ from person to person, you can use techniques like augmented reality, enhanced graphics, etc., to enhance the shopping experience.
3.2) Size Matters
Size matters very much in the realm of fashion. A difference of half an inch can make a shoe slip off. The considerations a clothing brand has taken to address the varying body types of people across the vast globe matter. Rather than a universal size guide, every clothing brand usually has its measurement base drawn from its hometown.
There can be a possibility of packing negligence when the packaging team ships the wrong size. This whole-size trope is something shoppers keenly understand but are unable to work out. This results in Fashion eCommerce having high returns.
3.3) High Expectations
Retail giant Asos was in a tub of hot water when a shopper noticed a model wearing one of the dresses with a clip to tighten the fit. Although common practice in the fashion industry, exposés such as this can leave the customers feeling mistrustful.
Marketplaces such as those belonging to Amazon, Etsy, and eBay often suffer when the sellers misrepresent the product they sell. With an increase in the number of purchase woes as jokes and memes floating on the interspace, it is not the seller who gets highlighted but the marketplace giant themselves.
Approximately 50% of return requests are placed because the product does not match the customer’s expectations. These expectations are based on the product info and pricing listed online. What one sees online and what one see when opening the package at their front door are two different things. Setting high expectations, brands bring the mantle of returns upon themselves.
Everything that fashion goods entail in these times is quite complex, with a blinding list of fabrics and materials, each with its dos and don’ts. Considering the number of shipping processes that Fashion eCommerce products go through, the risk of damaged goods reaching the customer can be high.
Limited damages may occur while unpacking and stocking inventory in physical stores. Unlike them, Fashion eCommerce Returns face higher threats from wear and tear damages. These can occur due to rough handling and improper packaging both on their outward and reverse journeys.
3.5) Holiday Season Spike
When the gifting season is upon everyone, close to 80% of shoppers leave their holiday gift shopping for the last minute. Approximately 55% head to online sales and over 70% of those customers head to the realm of Fashion eCommerce.
Crazy discounts are constantly offered by online stores that beat the offers at physical outlets. This means the chances of someone getting a silk scarf in a pattern they don’t like or a pair of earrings they already have is suddenly high.
A way to handle these seasonal returns is to refuse refunds and only offer exchanges and equal-value replacements. However, it does not solve the issue of high Fashion eCommerce Returns due to enthusiastic holiday deal-grabbing.
3.6) Multiple Options
Customers may place an order from their usual eCommerce store without wanting to spend much time checking offers from other eCommerce stores.
This behavior has a reason. Scrolling through the product list and filtering out category, color, and size, amongst the hundred other options, is a hassle. They may, however, find a better deal on another site online. This will prompt them to place an order with them. The customer will then wait for whichever gets delivered first.
Of course, they may hate the product, and both stores might experience returns. But, the one that reaches first has the potential of canceling out the other order. This lack of monopoly in the Fashion eCommerce game leads to the increased possibility of returns and refunds.
3.7) Fraudulent returns
Fraudulent returns piggyback on the back of weak Fashion eCommerce return policies. It’s time to tighten the grip on fashion eCommerce Returns & Refund policies.
In a two-month spree, a group of students purchased vast quantities of original branded clothing from popular Fashion eCommerce portals. They then bought cheap replicas from their local market. These students sewed the original labels to the replicas, and returned the products citing ill-fit, and received a full refund.
There have also been cases where a shopper purchases a garment for a significant life event or a super cool party, leaves the tags on and returns it the next day. This is what the retail industry terms Wardrobing. This is a huge issue for the fashion retail sector as they face significant losses on high-value items due to this malpractice.
This shopping behavior also serves as a routine for the insta-hungry gang. They purchase expensive clothing to stage their shoots for social media platforms. This is done in order to boost their credibility and success. Once they are done with the product, they return their purchase with tags and original packaging intact.
3.8) Consumer Psychology
Unpredictable and wild, consumer psychology evades understanding and mastery. Anything that could change a shopper’s mind about their purchase comes under this title.
When chatting with their friends regarding their latest purchase online, they could receive negative experience feedback about the store or options for better deals elsewhere. This increases the chances of a customer canceling their order or placing a return request if the order is already in process.
Even without outside influence, customers can easily decide to cancel or return their purchase upon further deliberation. Even notifications of delayed delivery could push them to hit the return button.
4) The Consuming processes involved in Fashion eCommerce Returns
The scanning or inspection process of the Fashion eCommerce returns product decides its destiny. A returned product can be sent for incineration, resale, or repair. But massive quantities of returns flood warehouses worldwide. This ensures even a straightforward operation such as this faces hardcore pressure points.
Although the boom in Fashion eCommerce sales has been immense, the reverse logistics of most operations remain crude. The fragmented processes in these operations increase hurdles that must be overcome before returned merchandise can be restocked for sale.
Challenges lie in isolating and justifying the investment required to maximize the efficiency of return processes through technology. Within the retail organization, there is no dedicated department for returns accountability. This is a sore point.
Returned goods travel back to the retailer in the packaging of all types and kinds. The efficiency of processing returns ought to be on the core operations team. However, several departments such as merchandising, finance, and marketing may need to pitch in. Their participation is needed to lower returns and optimize the value of the Fashion eCommerce Returns.
The deciding factor in the speed and cost involved with processing returns begins with the mode the customers choose to return their items. Goods returned at a physical store can cut the processing time by two weeks. Those sent through the mail and third-party can take much longer. This has an impact on the resale value of a product.
With no aligned incentives to help nudge the return process down its path, eCommerce Fashion retail struggles with returns thanks to hindrances in coordination and bureaucratic red tape.
5) Costs associated with eCommerce Fashion Returns
Additional expenses pile on with the cost of return shipping once the eCommerce Fashion Return completes its journey and arrives at the returns hub, warehouse, or stockroom.
5.1) Labor Cost
eCommerce Fashion Returns goods often languish on a shelf in the warehouse for months together. They take up precious inventory space. Nearly 90% of goods go through a quality assessment by hand-sorting and are sent for hygiene steaming or dry cleaning.
They are also sent for any repair work before returning to the store’s shelves. Time spent in the back-end operations of the eCommerce outlet results in the returned merchandise landing in the discount pile. In addition to the money lost on the returned goods, there are the costs of warehousing and restocking to deal with.
5.2) Damaged Goods
On average, almost 10% of eCommerce Fashion Returns goods head out to the incineration point or are donated. The cause of damages could be contributed by transportation, handling, or warehousing. If the merchandise is beyond repair, the only option is to scrap it. This is a cost to the company that cannot be wholly predicted.
5.3) Faulty Products
Products that have an issue with them are often processed for refunds and exchanges. These could be minor issues such as defects or the wrong size. According to most laws, all a faulty product needs to pass refund request processing is the bill of purchase. In most cases, any returned goods under this category are either discarded or donated.
Any Fashion eCommerce product that is returned for any reason must go through the same stages as in its nascence. Repackaging, repairing, and remarketing are all cost-intensive processes that are not accounted for while calculating the price of a product. When these processes are ignored or bypassed, the value of the returned product dips low.
6) How Fashion eCommerce Returns Contribute to Environmental Damage?
Over 17 billion products are returned every year. And Fashion eCommerce contributes to a well-sized portion of those returns.
Bracketing is a term used for customers who buy in various sizes or colors, this trend gives retailers the false notion of high demand triggering bigger purchase orders. With the increased production of goods comes a larger-than-usual surplus and more merchandise heading to landfills.
Any Fashion eCommerce merchandise entering the zone of reverse logistics automatically doubles the emissions. This is, of course, assuming a 100% success rate on the first pick-up or delivery attempt.
Excessive packaging is another contender for this list. Filling waterways and land, padded mailers, shrink wrap, corrugated boards, and air cushions pollute the ground where they lie.
7) How Shoppers can we help Reduce Returns in Fashion eCommerce?
A great way to help reduce Fashion eCommerce returns is to gift a dress in the wrong size or a pair of pants in the wrong color to a family member or a friend who appreciates them.
If regifting is not an option in your books, you can always donate your purchase to any neighborhood welfare organization and help someone in dire need of those gloves you don’t want.
Rescue it with some fun sashiko mending if it’s just an itsy-bitsy snag on your shirt. Take in the waist of your jeans with fun pleats. In this way, you get to have fun customizing your clothes!
In case you appreciate the value of getting some of your money back, there are plenty of marketplaces where you can sell your brand-new clothes with tags and packaging.
8) How can ClickPost Help with your Fashion eCommerce Returns?
Clickpost’s returns management software can help you with your fashion eCommerce Returns. This AI-driven software has made returns hassle-free by giving you the power of automation, transparency, visibility of shipments, and quick resolutions.
ClickPost’s clients include a majority of Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited’s in-house brands, joint ventures and licensors, Aldo Shoes, Arvind, Benetton, Jack & Jones, Only and Vero Moda. These eCommerce fashion brands have powered up their reverse logistics with ClickPost’s returns management software.
Fashion eCommerce has a diverse range of reasons and categories regarding returns. This industry experiences the highest rate of returns. Manual analysis and sorting take too much time and are prone to errors. From sorting returns requests to creating return labels, ClickPost can cut through massive quantities of tickets in minutes.
It picks and assigns shipping partners for your reverse logistics based on predefined parameters. It can also automate delivery destinations based on whether the product needs to be restocked, repaired, or disposed of.
In case the pick-up has not been successful, ClickPost communicates and rectifies potential issues to ensure a successful pick-up. Once your returns have been picked up, no matter the shipper or country of origin, your shipments can be tracked on a single portal.
By having greater visibility of your returns, you can plan ahead for processes that will ensure a swift turnaround on these items. Since fashion merchandise has a short re-sell period, this feature will help you save money on returned products.
By providing automated assistance every step of the way, ClickPost removes all the pain points associated with fashion eCommerce returns.
9.1) Can you return something bought online in-store?
Many eCommerce retailers are open to accept returns in their brick-and-mortar stores. Be sure to go through their return policy so you know what requirements your return request will have to meet.
9.2) Is it better to return online or in-store?
It is always better when customers choose to return products in-store. This helps retailers save on time and costs associated with returns.
9.3) What do eCommerce Fashion brands do with returns?
For most fast-fashion brands, it is cheaper to incinerate products and call it a day as opposed to losing money on inspections and returns processing. Luxury brands have been known to trash their returns. But some brands however do offer the returned merchandise for resale.