Reducing return rates for fashion eCommerce companies
The numbers for online returns are staggering, shocking and somewhat discouraging for eCommerce retailers in the fashion industry. However, for some there is a loophole, and for the others some fast fixes below.
The fashion industry booms online with fast fashion being in the forefront of leading popular Instagramers and celebrities. Where online shopping makes everyone look great, feel good, and make a million bucks doing it. Not only does self-image drive the fashion industry forward, but so does the convenience of shopping online. However, eCommerce retailers have struggled with policy for returns.
Return Policies Impact Returns
Return policies vary from 30 days, 90 days, tags on, tags off, anytime but with receipt, and that’s just the beginning. These return policies are created with the intention of serving the customer’s greatest need and for them to experience excellent customer service. Unfortunately, smaller online retailers can lose money by a return policy that doesn’t serve them or their client.
A few things to observe before going into the fast fixes and loopholes: The rates, the people, intentions, and satisfaction. Online apparel is returned at a much higher rate than other eCommerce items. Therefore, the online fashion industry leads the way for improving the eCommerce shopping experience for online customers. This includes the ability to eliminate as much guesswork as possible when selecting an item and thus lowering the desire for return.
What the experts are saying
There have been a few online shoppers identified by Shopify.com (https://www.shopify.com/enterprise/102947142-how-to-reduce-your-return-rate-predict-exactly-what-customers-want) that are notorious for returning their purchases. Returning items 15x more than others. In brief they are: The Wardrober, The “Try-It-On” Consumer, the “Fitting Roomer.” They either buy an item once, have zero intention of keeping the item, or buy many items and return them all but one. These types of online shoppers do any of the following clearly taking advantage of return policies.
Online retailers would do well to ruminate over these unknown intentions. Getting to the root of the current intentions of shoppers can lead to new companies, policies, and perfected customer services. Hypothetically, if a customer wanted to wear a new brand name shirt for a day to appear wealthy on Instagram. A company can emerge to serve this need charging the full price of the shirt and a 1 wear fee. The customer would then be paying for “their image” and honesty, not the clothes. The company would win by making money on a returned shirt, the customer would win by feeling good about being honest and getting the “image” they want. There are more logistics to it than this, but the possibilities of satisfying the customers need and the needs of the business are endless. Analyzing intentions can lead to revitalizing policies and revamping the entire shopping process.
What is there to say about the satisfaction levels online with eCommerce shoppers? Is it possible to completely satisfy their needs? It is a stretch, but as the online shopping experience improves with the quality of pictures, product description, sizing charts, reviews from repeat customers, and a motivating return policy they can increase the satisfaction and cut down on returns.
After considering the above observations let’s discover the fast fixes. There are five buying elements present in the psychology of buying when people make a decision to purchase online: seeing the item, visualizing themselves wearing the item, cost, purchase ease, and return policy. The following are fast fixes to tweak these 5 elements to increase customer satisfaction and decrease the rate of return.
Seeing the item – When most customers return items they may be dissatisfied with the size, the way it looks with their body type, quality, color, or any visual difference.
Fix this fast by offering multiple models and a description that is accurate. Also, offering skin-tone suggestions, warm or cool indicators of color tone would help the customer discern if it is right for him/her. Lastly, offering a “color match” swatch image to text to phone is to match with her current wardrobe is enough incentive for serious buyers AND for the business to screen and get an opt-in.
Visualizing Owning the Item – Many customers see themselves very differently than what is in their mirror. They are constantly seeing models in magazines and online advertisements that show them the way they want to look rather than the way they actually look.
Fix this fast by making Ad campaigns that focus on the message “make it you,” “wear it your own way” and even product descriptions that encourage originality and pride in “owning your look.”
Cost – Customers always consider the cost and benefit of having the item. Let’s be honest, clothing is not a great investment unless it is purchased with intention on creating a million dollar image. If the customer enjoys the thrill of the purchase, but still cannot afford the true cost of the item there will be returns. He or she must have the desire and power to invest in their image on any level.
Fix this fast by guiding the customer to make smaller priced purchases first while leading customers to more expensive items over time. Another fix is to present information about the demographics wearing that item to create more “value” in their minds tempting them to hold onto the beloved item.
Purchase Ease – It has been said that women make up the majority of the purchasing decisions. Purchase ease helps seal the online deal. However, sometimes the easy process is not enough to incentivize them to hang onto the product after the fact. Fix this fast by for the checkout process to be more finite would be to add more humanity, adding fun, favor, and an endorphin filled “closure” to the deal. To fix the inevitable “buyers remorse” sending a follow up email after they receive the product that feeds the vision of being their beautiful selves while wearing the product would not only increase rapport but customer ideation of their satisfaction.
Return Policy – Although many customers take advantage of the liberal return policies found online. This may be the deal breaker for some, but a loophole for establishing more trust, rapport, and repeat purchases for repeat customers resulting in increased sales. However, for the serial returners mentioned above how will eCommerce Fashion businesses tweak their return policies to get their return rates down? A fast fix that can easily be implemented with the reward incentive campaigns is to establish a higher reward for items kept as a “social credit” A sort of system for keeping in rapport. Creating a program that acts as “character credit” where the customer who returns an item is “dinged on the credit” (not affecting their points) has the potential to weed out non-serious buyers, get the serial returners to get more “skin in the game” while at the same time rewarding loyal buyers with more gifts, bonuses, and special privileges.
Ultimately, there are limitless possibilities out there that have the power to quell and resolve the ongoing conversation about return rates for eCommerce businesses in the fashion industry. For most people today, fashion is a non-negotiable, which means it’s an ideal business and market to throw yourself into. But, remember, boosting sales is always easier than discouraging returns.
Encouraging returns, setting up limits while asking for more skin-in-the-game, and offering awesome reward points based on behavior (not purchases) is the ultimate game changer this year for eCommerce fashion retailers.