3 Ways to Reduce Ecommerce Customer Returns

Embattled by costly returns, ecommerce retailers are turning to software that helps customers choose the right size from the start.

As the pandemic forced brick-and-mortar retailers to pivot to ecommerce, marketers raced to learn what it would take to convince store-only customers to buy online. One of our FitForCommerce clients, a large chain of apparel stores, said the primary response was: “Convince me your products will fit so I don’t have to return them.”

If increasing online commerce while decreasing the rate of return isn’t at the top of your martech playbook, it should be. Ecommerce adoption is continuing to grow rapidly even as consumers head back to physical stores, and higher returns mean lower profits.

Most shipping and payment companies report that retailers see ecommerce return rates of about 20% and note that apparel and footwear returns can approach 40% – or even higher around the holiday season.  Factor in shipping and restocking fees plus the risks of carrying too much or too little inventory, and it’s easy to see how returns can quickly hurt margin.

Ways to Reduce Ecommerce Customer Returns

Fortunately, there is a strong set of solutions for retailers and brands who want to grow sales while lowering the rates of returned merchandise. Called “virtual fit,” the category includes software that helps a customer gain confidence that the shirts, coats, or sneakers she loves online will fit when she tries them on at home.

The technology is expanding across the retail segment, with apparel and footwear sellers in the early adopter category. Three of the main solutions are:

  1. Personalized fit recommendations based on information directly provided by consumers
  2. Virtual dressing rooms created using AI
  3. User-generated content that aggregates information about sizing

“The more you can do to help a shopper put the right size in the shopping cart, the more efficient your sale will be,” says Bernardine Wu, CEO at FitForCommerce.

  1. Personalized Fit

Personalization software companies like True Fit have developed sophisticated but easy-to-use software that helps customers find products that are the most likely to fit.

“The underlying component is trust and confidence.  Confidence that the information the shopper is giving is going to result in a more relevant experience.  True Fit helps us take action on the information so that we can power shopper trust and relevant experiences,” says Billy May, Chief Customer Officer, J.Crew.

We typically see a 3 to 6% increase in revenue.

At True Fit client J.Crew.com, customers fill out a short questionnaire about their size and preferred brands then receive personalized fit recommendations about specific products.

Another True Fit client, Kate Spade, says that customers who use the software for ready-to-wear convert at more than double the rate of those who don’t use True Fit.

Virtual fit companies can also act as mini CRMs, providing a trove of personalized data retailers can market against, including information that can help retailers move slow-selling items or end-of-run merchandise.

  1. Virtual Dressing Rooms

For apparel retailers seeking to replace or augment traditional fitting rooms, several companies are offering AI platforms that scan a consumer’s body type and show them how they’d look in a garment. Players in this space, including Zugara and Metail, are working with retailers that range from traditional brick-and-mortar companies to pop-up-stores at music and sporting events.

“Virtual dressing rooms combine function with the wow factor and can be a powerful tool for both marketing and sales,” says Wu.

  1. User-Generated and Other Content on Fit

Many apparel retailers are turning to shopper reviews and detailed content marketing to help detail how a garment will fit. For those with user-generated content platforms, consumers who have made qualified purchases are often asked to fill out short forms that detail factors that can range from whether a shoe’s fit runs too wide or narrow, and whether a tee-shirt has a slim or boxy fit.

Other types of content marketing are also gaining traction to help consumers understand fit. Many retailers, including online seller Tennis Warehouse, are expanding traditional sizing charts (e.g., measurements for weight and height) with infographics and videos that detail whether a garment’s fit is long or short, narrow or wide.

“Content is a powerful tool for helping customers understand fit,” says Wu. “At FitForCommerce, we have seen many different user-generated content implementations work, ranging from low-tech to high-tech.”

A good rule of thumb for retailers thinking of adopting virtual fit technology: the software you choose should be easy to set up and to maintain, and easy for your consumers to use.

To learn more about virtual fit options for your company, contact FitForCommerce.