The Horror Of Holiday (Retail) Returns

By | Apparel industry

Because It’s Needed: 3 Ways For Brands To Slash Post-holiday Returns

UPS recently projected that January 2, 2020, would see 1.9 million returns. That’s a 26% increase from the total returns of last year’s peak returns. According to their data, there’ll be approximately 1.6 million returns per day in the week before Christmas.

This is simply unsustainable. Most returned clothing ends up in landfills and incinerators, with only a tiny fraction finding their way back to the store shelves. According to a recent RetailDive article of retailers and returns this holiday season, 77% of consumers polled anticipated returning some of the gifts they would receive while 20% of those plan to return at least half of the gifts they receive. That’s staggering news for brands and retailers, but considering that up to 80% of apparel returns are fit-related, here are a few ways for brands to significantly reduce the post-holiday returns without negatively impacting their customer shopping experience (and in some cases boosting customer loyalty).

Honest reviews and customer feedback:

A study conducted to discover if consumer-generated product reviews lead to lower product returns had results that suggested that online reviews indeed help consumers make better purchase decisions leading to lower product returns.

By providing a platform for customers to leave honest reviews or ratings about the product they have purchased, brands can help manage potential customers’ expectations about the item of clothing. When it comes to apparel, customers tend to buy more sizes and styles with the intention of returning a least some of them. To prevent or reduce this, having detailed reviews that address the fit, functionality, and quality of a piece of clothing can help set realistic expectations for potential customers and significantly reduce the need for bracketing their purchases.

For example, having product reviews that include images and ratings from previous customers enables people looking to purchase the same item to have a better idea of fit and sizing on different body shapes so they can better visualize how the same garment would look on themselves. 

Improve the customer fit experience: 

Innovative technology now means that brands can connect their customers to better-fitting clothing without the hassle of measuring tapes or awkward body scanners. Although able to give highly accurate measurement results, it is such a tedious and high-friction process that consumer adoption has been slow at best. 

Using machine learning-based technology to accurately predict customer body measurements in a process that only gets better over time due to the way feedback and data returned helps train the algorithm over time, improving both its accuracy and results. Bold Metrics has worked with multi-brand retailers, leveraging our Virtual Sizer technology to help large brands solve their sizing and fit challenges at scale with proven results and in some cases, helping brands reduce returns by up to 50%. 

And providing a relatively seamless customer retail experience helps improve the overall purchase experience, leading to higher customer satisfaction with the brand — a win-win situation for any retailer.

Leveraging data to limit abuse on a brand’s return policy:

It’s been proven that providing free shipping and a generous returns policy helps boost sales, especially for direct-to-consumer brands. But when customers habitually take advantage of that to turn their home into their dressing room, some brands are starting to take action. By using customer return data and tracking habitual returners, brands can discourage customers from generating high return volumes by limiting their free returns or by charging for shipment should they exceed a certain number of allotted returns.

Yes, it’s a more aggressive method of reducing returns (although not as aggressive as Amazon closing the accounts of people who had abused their free shipping and returns policy, as this Wall Street Journal article illustrates) and one that might raise the ire of some shoppers. But with total merchandise returns hitting nearly $369 billion in lost sales for US retailers in 2018, reducing returns, especially during the peak sales holiday season, has become a hot topic in the apparel industry.

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