Consumer confusion over the market’s variability in size and fit standards is driving the rise of the ‘Serial Returner’, and seriously impacting the profitability of UK clothing retailers. This is according to new research commissioned by Tryzens, an e-commerce solutions specialist, which found that eight in ten UK consumers surveyed want ‘the right fit first time’.
While encouraging online shopping, the drive for free delivery and returns is giving rise to potentially damaging consumer behaviours such as wardrobing (wear once and return), and the ordering of multiple sizes of the same item of clothing to then return the sizes that are not needed. As a result, these behaviours materially impact the operating costs of the retailer in checking and restocking, reduces sales revenue and increases the risk of stock wastage.
With 68% of consumers stating that they would be willing to provide their measurements just once to retailers to ensure a good fit, retailers have an ideal opportunity to take action to confront the size and fit cost issue, the firm said.
Andy Burton, CEO of Tryzens, stated: “The high level of return rates from online purchases is a major problem for online clothing retailers whether operating as a pure-play or multi-channel. Tackling serial returners is a major undertaking, as clothing is a very personal purchase; style, colour, texture, fit and size all must be conveyed online through good photography and accurate data. However, these factors must not create too much friction in the online experience as this will reduce customer engagement.
“The reasons for returns are numerous ranging from size and fit to personal taste, to the notion of intentional wardrobing. However, with an estimated average cost of handling returns at around £15 per order returned, it is a material cost to mitigate when return rates can exceed 50% of orders in some online businesses,” he said.
Burton continued: “There are many challenges on unifying the market to work toward a universal size guide, and as such the problem needs to be tackled from a different perspective, more simply and inventively, that will leverage the capability of technology to personalise a consumer experience. For example, serial returners could be reduced or even avoided by having the ability to translate a consumer’s individual personal measurements into any retailers specific labelling in real-time. This therefore ensures the correct size can be purchased through an improved online shopping experience.
“If you explore the notion of holding a consumers’ personal size/measurement data as a ‘service’ that any online retailer could securely access when a consumer browses their site, and, if retailers maps their products to actual measurements (whilst retaining their labelling scheme) then it is not beyond the wit of man that a Product Listing Page (or search results) could present products that would both fit the consumer and are available in stock! Of course, the ability to toggle this on/off when shopping for others would be needed, but the principle at least breaks the somewhat fractious situation that arises when consumers rely on labeling alone, and overcomes the ‘hassle factor’ of manually looking up a size chart on the retailer website.”
The research also revealed that if a retailer could present a Product Listing Page that was already checked against size and stock availability so that the consumer only saw what was available in their size at the time of shopping, the benefits of avoiding wasted searches and a simplified shopping experience appealed to respondents. Three quarters of the participants agreed that it would indeed be beneficial, evidencing that retailers have a tremendous opportunity to improve consumer experience, reduce return rates and improve sales conversion.
The research revealed that a majority of consumers were not prepared to pay a contribution to a return that was related to ordering multiples of products in different sizes (68% of women and 53% of men). A return fee would also dissuade 71% of women and 60% of men from using a site unless they guaranteed an accurate fit.
“The research validates that consumers want to be confident that they will receive goods that fit correctly, first time. Getting this right will positively influence consumer behaviour and materially reduce consequential costs and improve customer experience. To resolve the cost issue around returns, introducing charging options is unlikely to be a viable answer in a competitive market, as the research has shown this is likely to turn consumers off from ordering online. The size issue needs to be addressed by being able to translate a consumer’s personal measurements in to any retailer’s specific labelling to ensure the correct size can be purchased,” said Burton.
Tryzens latest Expert Research is based on a detailed survey of 1,000 UK consumers who had recent experience of shopping online. This information is used to analyse and forecast the trends and preferences of ‘Generation Consumer’ to assist retailers operating online to quantify current consumer behaviour and preferences in order to more accurately and effectively evolve their eCommerce capabilities.