One out of every three apparel purchases made online is returned. Businesses with those return rates would never be able to survive in other sectors. Imagine if one out of every three restaurant customers sent their food back? Or one out of every three travelers canceled their flight tickets? The 33 percent return rate would be untenable.
However, online retail is a different beast than brick-and-mortar, especially when it comes to apparel. Online shoppers are unable to try on items, figure out the right size, touch and feel the product, and only have a limited ability to see intricate details. Sizing and fit top the list of reasons why consumers make returns. By integrating tools to help shoppers make smarter fit decisions, online retailers can dramatically reduce their return rates.
Here are some great examples of online retailers leveraging sizing apps to keep their return rates down.
Fit is Everything
Leading online fashion retailer ASOS sells over 60,000 products and offers a hassle-free returns policy with free shipping worldwide and free returns with no restocking fees. More importantly, ASOS integrated a fitting application called Virtusize that helps shoppers find clothes with the right fit. Virtusize works across a wide range of online retailers, enabling shoppers to compare the fit of a garment from a store they're currently shopping in with a garment they previously purchased from another retailer. Virtusize has helped ASOS reduce its return rate by an impressive 50 percent. Furthermore, the app has helped improve customer loyalty and retention as well, because shoppers feel more satisfied when they receive clothing that fits properly.
Designer jean retailer Sojeans has a great strategy for helping online shoppers find their perfect size. Jeans are one of the most notoriously difficult items of clothing to buy, even when you're in-store to try them on. Sojeans addresses this challenge with a fitting app called Soselect that requires just five clicks to find jeans that fit. The first two steps ask for information about your height and weight; the next three steps inquire about about your body type, behind and thighs. Shoppers can get even more nuanced by entering the type of shoes they plan to wear with the jeans. Once this information is entered, Soselect suggests different jeans based on an “affinity” rating that ranges from 1 percent to 99 percent. Oh, and returns are free if made within 30 days, so customers
have a chance to try their jeans on before they buy.
U.K.-based House of Fraser takes its sizing ability a step further by offering it on mobile. After realizing that over half of its purchases were made on mobile devices, the retailer integrated a mobile and touchscreen-friendly sizing app called True Fit that prompts shoppers to enter basic details about their waist size, height, weight, etc., and that makes smart recommendations accordingly.
If the Shoe Fits …
Shoes can also be difficult to buy without trying them on first, and sizing apps are a powerful way to reduce returns for footwear as well. For example, leading running shoe brand Running Warehouse has reduced the rate of e-commerce returns by a substantial 23 percent since introducing a footwear sizing app. The app, called Shoefitr, draws from a database of shoe measurements and provides special, three-dimensional imaging technology. Shoefitr helps consumers find the right size shoe by allowing them to compare the size of the shoe they're wearing to the one that they're shopping for. After that step, Shoefitr uses that size information to offer smart product recommendations.
How to Cut Down on Online Returns?
Helping shoppers figure out what size to buy is one of the most effective ways to reduce online returns in fashion e-commerce. In addition, online retailers can also offer high-resolution images, include zoom features and images of different angles, and provide detailed product descriptions, effectively eliminating all hassle from the returns process. All of these steps will cut down on returns, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and help to fuel more sales.
Chris Dunn is the director of operations at TrueShip, a provider of e-commerce shipping software.
Related story: Why Product Returns Don't Have to Be a Nightmare