The media is quick to report on problems facing apparel retailers. In 2018 Bloomberg reported an interesting tactic being used by apparel retail tenants in response to clothing returns. Mall owners were noticing tenants deducting online returns when reporting in-store sales figures. This appeared to be a new way to lower percentage of sale fees owed to mall owners. The apparel industry is aware returns are a major problem, and it’s only getting worse. Consumer habits are changing and competition is fierce in the free shipping/free returns game. For over a decade retailers have been in search of an online fit tool that would effectively allow shoppers to try garments before they buy. Finding the right tool can help alleviate a litany of issues and help improve the way consumers view your brand.
Changing Consumer Habits Cause Increase in Returns
The Bloomberg article went on to explain when tenants deduct online returns from in-store sales, it leads to lower reported sales per-square-foot. Which eventually leads to lower mall valuations/health in the eyes of wall street. This is not good in an era where brick and mortar is dying a slow death.
Alternatively, in a world where free shipping and free returns are the standard, online shoppers are getting clever. Many consumers have developed a system the industry calls sandwich or bracket buying. This is the practice of buying a garment in ones usual size, then also buying one size above and one size below. This is done to increase the chance of receiving the right fit. The downside for the shopper is parting with the funds to buy 3 garments. There is also knowing the process of packaging the leftovers and shipping them back is in their future.
A Proper Online Fit Tool Will Help Curb Return Activity
It’s no mystery that each year online apparel sales are greater than the prior year. Because of this, returns will also continue to increase. Though this doesn’t mean there are not steps one can take to avoid this fate.
The best way to reduce returns is to adopt a strategy to increase the likelihood your customer will choose the right garment in the right size. This is easier said then done of course. The place to begin is to ask yourself “which type of strategy do I want to employ?”
Automated Size Recommendations
A hands off strategy is the most common today as more returns-busting technologies enter the market. This type of strategy is beneficial for most small to medium sized retailers because it eliminates the need to add tasks for employees.
Tools in this category range from online fit questionnaires to 3D body scanning apps. Companies who offer solutions in these categories report reductions in returns ranging from 10-30%, though it is yet to be seen how effective these tools can be over time. Tailored has witnessed the dominate players in this industry being used by a brand one minute, and not the next.
Tailored offers a tool in the hands off category by the name of Capture. This app is the first of its kind in the way it gathers customer data and makes size recommendations. It asks shoppers to photograph a well fitting garment they own to learn its fit characteristics. It does this provide the shopper with a proper size recommendation. Tailored believes the most effective way to determine fit preference is to take inventory of what a consumer already owns.
Hands On Customer Service
Perhaps you’re in the online made-to-measure business and hands on customer service is your strategy. Tailored offers a unique web dashboard which shows all customer garment photos, along with the measurements of those garments. This to help your teams more effectively assess the proper measurements for the new garment you’ll create.
People Not Confident Enough To Buy Online
On one end we have shoppers who buy multiple sizes knowing they’ll return most, if not all, of their purchase. At the other end there are those who do not purchase clothing online because they don’t want to go through the hassle of a possible return. This is true in that as of 2018 only 27% of all clothing sold is sold through online channels. The rest is sold via physical stores.
Most of us are conditioned to believe we should have a standard size when we shop for clothes. Unfortunately all brands size their garments differently. To compound the issue, garments from different decades are also sized differently. Meaning when shopping vintage, a size large might very equate to a size small today.
These are all great reasons to add a virtual fit tool to your online mix. Consumer confidence will help drive conversions while reducing returns.
Better Online Fitting Can Also Help Your Sustainability Efforts
Most don’t realize when clothing product comes back to the retailer, much of it doesn’t make it back on the shelve. This is for a variety of reasons and is highly dependent on the retailer. For instance, many luxury brands will not resell a garment that has been returned simply because it may have been tried on. Oils from the skin, perfumes, odors from the home, and random markings may be present. It’s too risky to pass this on to the next potential owner.
Additionally, most luxury brands do not sell their items at a discount. Thus the item is headed to the landfill for the remainder of its life. If you’re looking to curb returns and improve sustainability efforts, a quality virtual fitting tool can help.