Sizing Up the Issue: What’s the Size of the Returns Problem and How Can It Be Reduced?

  • 22nd January 2021
Anna Murphy, Communications Lead

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead

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As our shopping habits become increasingly digital, returns have become a necessary evil; as we can’t venture in-store, it’s paramount that customers can try products in their own homes.

But why should the returns process matter to brands? Other than the obvious costly nature of lost sales – from pre-paying shipping, returns forms, processing returns, quality control checks, steaming and re-packaging items – there’s also a huge potential for it to negatively impact on the customer experience. In fact, according to Charlotte Monk-Chipman, ReBOUND Return’s Director of Marketing, 73% of shoppers agree that the overall returns experience impacts their likelihood of purchasing again.

We attended the “Sizing Up the Returns Problem” webinar, hosted by ReBOUND Returns and MySize. Here are our top takeaways.

Returns: Where to Begin?

Returns don’t have to be a mystery: you can understand the problem by looking at the data.

Charlotte said: “Do your returns spike at certain times of the year? Is this in-line with sales spikes? Which products have the highest returns rates? For example, is fit an issue for eveningwear products? Brands tend to see a 60% returns rate on eveningwear for a number of reasons including ill-fitting gowns or even awkward zips. Before you can truly understand the issue, you need to understand why they’re happening in the first place.

“Other questions to ask include: what customer segment do most of our returns come from and why could this be? What is our top used return reason? Does this vary by product/SKU code?”

How to Reduce Returns: Case Studies

Giving an example of a real-life returns example, Charlotte spoke about ReBOUND Return’s client, ASOS. She said: “ASOS’ initiative was to make returns free up to 28 days but the returns window was also extended up to 45 days for store credit. The result was significant and sustained reduction in returns since April 2020 as a result of a shift in consumer buying habits.”

For online fashion retailer Bestseller, their returns committee trialled increasing the returns window from 30 days to 100 days. Charlotte said that a member of Bestseller’s returns working group explained that because customers could try on the items at home without feeling stressed to make a quick decision, increasing numbers of customers are now keeping more items and returning less.

How to Avoid Returns in the First Place

Charlotte explained that the returns process does not begin simply when the customer receives an item – it’s much earlier than that. She said that the online returns journey begins pre-purchase, when the customer is browsing products on the website; this process includes product pages, size charts and fit tools and webpages with the returns policy explained. All of these play a vital role in reducing returns before they’ve even happened.

But it’s not just the job of web content teams – the issue spreads much wider than that. Charlotte said: “67% of shoppers check the returns policy before checking out, so it’s important they can see all the information they need to as part of the purchase journey, including a reminder of the returns policy on the basket and checkout pages, too. However, it’s worth checking that all teams, including your marketing team, understand the need to reduce returns. For some brands, there’s basket size incentives, such as “spend £50 to qualify for free delivery”. How many last minute “basket fillers” end up getting returned?”

Speaking of savvy shoppers, Charlotte also warned against promotions driving returns, citing instances of customers placing full price orders only to discover that the next day, the brand has released a discount code.

Charlotte said: “What’s stopping savvy shoppers from ordering everything again with the discount and returning the full price goods?”

What’s the Most Common Return Reasons?

Whilst there are many reasons why a customer could return a product – from 8% of returners saying it’s because they “changed their mind” to 3% saying the product is “bad quality” – there’s a huge issue that beats all other possible reasons by a mile.

A whopping 70% of returns are size and fit related – something which, whilst costly in turns of lost sales, is something that is so simple to amend throughout the digital customer experience.

The Size of the Issue

Ronen Luzon, CEO and Founder of MySize, said: “So, why is sizing so hard? Fitting rooms are obviously closed, but vanity sizing is also an issue: a size 12 in one brand is a size 10 in another. However, a COVID-19 related issue is that our bodies are changing all the time, particularly over lockdown: what fit us at the start of lockdown might not be the same for ourselves now, several months on.

With this in mind, how can brands improve their size and fit tactics? Ronen said: “It starts with the size chart: 98% of apparel brands in Europe rely on the size chart as the main way to get sizing right. But brands should optimise their size chart to tailor it to the shopping region, personalise it per product or brand and make sure that they keep testing that it’s accurate.”

Can PIM Help to Prevent Returns?

Whilst giving customers accurate size chart information no doubt helps consumers, more can still be done. Using a PIM solution provides a central location to house all sizing information relating to a certain product or brand whilst also providing shoppers with more accurate fit information and tailored product descriptions. For example, what size is the model wearing? What’s their height? Is the item true to size? With OMIO PIM, product teams can easily amend product information so that if customer keep returning a dress saying that it’s smaller than they imagined, the product content can be updated to inform customers to take one size bigger.

Want to see what other ROI a PIM could deliver for your brand? Click here to try on (sorry, bad sizing pun!) our ROI calculator.

  • 22nd January 2021
Anna Murphy, Communications Lead

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead

Add me on LinkedIn

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