Quick Facts:

  • U.S. apparel market (overall) was valued at $315 billion in 2017
  • 2016 U.S. apparel return rates were at 28%

The 2018 Holiday Season kicks off November 1 and apparel retailers are stocked up and ready to sell. With the expected spike in sales, retailers can also expect a rise in returns immediately following the holidays. Buyer’s remorse and gift recipient dislike will play a role, along with an increase in wardrobing (the practice of buying something—like a new party dress—with the full intention of returning it later). Side note: according to the NRF, wardrobing represents 39.7% of all returns of used, but non-defective merchandise!

Following the holidays (and really all year round) the apparel category makes the list of ‘Most Returned’ merchandise; that is especially true of online apparel purchases. Being able to offset loss pre and post return, while maintaining buyer loyalty is a must. Here are five easy areas retailers can work to improve the online returns experience, so that customers keep coming back even after they make a return.

Better product descriptions and sizing tools. Many consumers will return clothes bought online after they realize they don’t like the color or the size that they received. Surveys show that 70% of apparel returns are based on wrong size or color (and this is the number one reason why clothing is returned). Retailers can combat this return trend by providing accurate descriptions and fitting guides on their sites.

No questions asked returns policy. Seventy-two percent of apparel returners said a “no questions asked” policy is the most important thing a retailer can provide. Shoppers ranked it even higher than wanting merchants to pay for return shipping. While providing lax return policies has become essential to closing the sale, it also provides an opportunity to learn more about the customer when they do initiate a return.

Offer free returns, on condition of a survey. When a retailer accepts returns with no questions asked, they are missing an opportunity to gather data on the customer. If a retailer asks a few questions before accepting the return, that can help them understand the customer better. For example, are they returning the item based on wrong description, or did they find a better price elsewhere, or maybe they decided to buy something else instead, and if so, what?  

Provide tracking information on returned packages. The majority of people who shop online make their returns through the mail. This can cause anxiety for consumers—29% of respondents say they worry that items will get lost in the mail. To help ease customer concern, some retailers provide a Status Update message either through text or email. These status updates keep the consumer informed of where their package is and the processing status.

In-store returns are proving popular. While many customers are shopping online, 46% of apparel shoppers said it’s easier to return items to a store. To help the consumer make their return, offering an omnichannel approach to returns makes just as much sense as an omnichannel approach to sales.

While the return policies listed here can help keep customers happy and coming back, keep in  mind all these returned items will take up valuable warehouse space and may not be able to go back on virtual shelves. Having a modern approach to liquidation is now essential for increasing recovery rates. Contact us today for a demo.

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