Reverse Logistics: Who should the responsibility of online fashion returns sit with

 

Returning fashion is a logistics problem

The main culprit of returns is overwhelmingly clothing and accessories, with 75% of all returns falling into this category. As an online retailer, the expectation on you to absorb this cost is a given. Unfortunately, this makes it even harder to compete with larger, fast fashion outlets. However, the frequency of returns can be reduced by putting measures in place on your website that help with returns prevention.

Provide Information to make informed buying decisions

The best way to tackle avoidable returns is to educate and inform your customers before they buy. Many fashion retailers now have tools that suggest the size in a particular item, based on the customer’s provided measurements, or have virtual try on booths. Though this may seem too costly for a smaller brand, there are still measures you can take on your website right now to help reduce returns.

1. Photography

Photography of your items is so important when the physical aspects of shopping are removed, such as handling the item. This may seem an obvious one, but how many times have you ordered an item online, only for it to arrive and look entirely different to the product photograph? You are not alone. In a recent survey, SalesCycle found that 64% of respondents had returned an item due to it not matching the description. That is staggering, and no doubt comes from preventable blunders such as lighting or the context of a photo.

For example, situate an item with other pieces you would find in the scenario for context and sizing, such as styling a longer shirt with just a pair of shoes, so the customer knows they are buying a shirt dress and not a normal shirt. Again, it sounds obvious in fashion, but the context of the item is so important when shopping online as you have to trust that the item you are viewing has been accurately represented, rather than being able to see sizing and colour in person. Some jewellery retailers have found that simply stating the size of a pair of earrings reduces returns; this seems obvious but not all companies adopt this simple fix.

2. Description

That brings us onto another easily-fixed issue – the item description. It may seem laborious and as if you are pointing out the obvious when writing detailed descriptions, but it helps to clear up any ambiguity which could be used as a reason for a return or a refund. This is especially important for those who are partially sighted, and the best way to ensure you are writing detailed enough descriptions is to constantly remind yourself of this: if you cannot picture how an item looks by reading the description, it is not detailed enough.

As mentioned earlier, sizing cues from charts and virtual changing rooms can help customers identify more accurately their sizing. Many smaller sites choose to include a variation of the messaging ‘Unsure what size to order? Please get in touch and we can help’, to also build customer rapport by helping the customer get their size right first time. This outreach from the beginning of their shopping experience can really help to make your brand more personable and set you apart from a larger retailer who leaves the consumer to order three items and then have to return the two that do not fit.

3. Eco impact

Shockingly, 5 billion pounds of waste is generated through returned clothing, both fast fashion and designer. British designer Burberry’s annual accounts showed the brand had burned unsold goods, even if they were in perfect condition, at around £28million worth in 2018 alone. Customers are not made aware of these facts when purchasing, and it would no doubt make some people think twice before overordering intentionally. Including a visible page about your commitment to reducing textiles waste could help inform customers before they make their purchases. Many smaller brands may be cautious to include statements like this with a fear of putting off potential customers. However, it encourages customers to purchase with the intention of keeping what they buy and helps you mitigate costs of returns.

Returns will never be eliminated completely, there will always be faulty items and sometimes mistakes happen in the ordering process. However, by tackling these 3 key areas, you can mitigate the amount of returns your business experiences and lower the costs of returns to your business.

E-commerce and fulfilment: now and the future

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