The clothing and apparel industry enjoys huge profits from the many avid online shoppers. If you’ve seen our infographic about What Are People Really Buying Online, you’ll see that clothing industry rakes in over $13 billion of sales, twice as much when compared to in-store purchases. Tempted to start an online clothing store already? You may want to hold that thought for a while. Although it is a fact that online clothing stores are one of the most successful online businesses nowadays, they also face one of the biggest problems in the world of virtual marketplaces – high return rates. Yes, online clothing stores have made the buying of clothes easy and convenient, in as much as they made it easier to return them, too. If you plan to start an online clothing store, or already have one, it’s in your best interest to know some basic truths about return rates among online clothing stores, including how they can hurt your business, the reasons behind their occurrence, and of course, what you can do about them.
Undressing the Truth about High Return RatesMany online clothing stores, in their attempt to attract more online shoppers, offer free returns as part of their marketing strategy. In most cases, this works well in driving up the online store’s sales, as well as the return rates, thereby resulting in a variety of problems, notably in profits, expenses, and brand reputation. When a return is made under the circumstances mentioned in the above paragraph, your online clothing store stands to lose more than what it bargained for. Not only will you have to shoulder the costs for the return shipping, but also restocking and inventory management. If the customers ask for a replacement of the garment, you’ll spend twice the amount for free shipping and once for free returns. Alternatively, if the customer asks for a full refund, you’ll have spent for free shipping and free returns without making any profit. Either way, your business is wouldn’t have made enough money out of the transaction. High return rates do not only hurt your profits, though. Your biggest concern should be the damage it can cause to your online clothing store’s reputation and brand. When a return is made, this simply means that the customer is not happy with the item and the transaction. When this is not properly handled, customers will start to doubt your store’s ability to deliver on its promises, and may not consider buying from you again in the future. Such cases also results in negative publicity for your online clothing store, and you stand to lose not just one customer, but all other possible sales from potential customers (thanks to social media, unhappy customers can write, post or tweet their negative views about you and your business to the world).
Making Sense of this Fashion CrisisWhy do returns happen in the first place? Your clothing lines are actually sexy and trending, made from the best materials and priced reasonably. What else could your customer want? The number one reason for high return rates for online clothing stores does not necessarily relate to the design and quality or price of the item – they are important factors, but not the main reason – instead, it’s the garment’s poor fitting. You may have included the sizes and measurements in your product descriptions, but still, the uniqueness in size, shape and body type of online shoppers can make it very difficult to put a finger on the right size based on standard measurements – which also differs in some parts of the world. A size “XL” jacket for instance, may fit a six foot couch potato living in his mom’s basement comfortably, but may be too loose for a lean and mean six foot tall basketball player. This is why most people shop in brick and mortar stores, to get to try on the clothes first and see if they fit or not – something which those shopping online can’t do. … or can they?
Finding the Perfect Fit… VirtuallyWith the use of certain web applications, yes, you can offer your online shoppers the chance to “try on” the garment before they purchase it. There aren’t so many of these web apps out there (or maybe there are), but the two most popular will have to be the ones below:
Fits.MeFits.me allows online shoppers to determine the best possible fit for them by taking into account measurements of the online shopper’s body. Using those measurements, a virtual mannequin is generated and allows the online shopper to try several choices to help them decide which size suits them best. Here is a sample of Fits.me as used in Austin Reed:
UpcloadAnother online fitting solution is Upcload which basically does the same thing as the one above, but with certain limitations. For one, it only takes into the online shopper’s height and weight, and from there makes its own calculation to find the perfect fit for the online shopper as seen in the image below (Upcload used in buying a North Face jacket):