Building A Better Buying Experience To Reduce The Risk Of Return

Contributed by Chris Palmer, CEO, BoxFox

In today’s world of ‘trends’ and ‘It Style’, consumers are constantly looking for the latest and greatest in apparel. Unfortunately for retailers, this also means that consumers are returning more purchases than ever before. In fact, 23% of all clothing purchases get returned, usually because something doesn’t fit correctly. While there will always be some margin of returns due to customer decisions out of your control, it’s also possible for small business owners and independent retailers to implement strategies that can help reduce the risk of returns.

One overarching thing to keep in mind is that just making an in-store purchase makes a customer less likely to return an item than if they purchased that same item online. E-commerce return rates can be up to more than 5x more than those of brick-and-mortar stores. This interaction between consumer and product can prove to be invaluable when it comes to both influencing a purchase decision and reducing the risk of returns. For small businesses, this can mean a huge advantage over major online retailers, which often see a huge numbers of apparel returns.

Below, we’ll look at 4 ways independent retailers can build a better shopping experience both in brick-and-mortar stores and online in order to reduce their number of apparel returns.

Offer In-Store Incentives

For retailers that have both an in-person and online experience, offering in-store incentives is a great way to attract buyers and get them to engage with merchandise. In-store incentives can include:

  • Discounts just for trying on a certain item
  • In-store only sales
  • Special in-store events, giveaways, or parties
  • Free gift with purchase, only in stores

Have A Clear, Easy-to-Find Sizing System

Sometimes, when customers return something because it ‘isn’t the right size’, the retailer’s sizing chart can be at fault. According to Shopify, the average online apparel retailer experiences a return rate of 28%, and 80% of returns are actually due to fit issues. For athleisure or sports apparel retailers, clothing can often fit differently than traditional jeans and t-shirts, so an intuitive sizing chart is imperative. Retailers should also make sure to have comparison charts for international customers.

Similarly, online retailers need to make sure to have a clear, easy-to-understand size chart that is accessible from every single product page. This will make it easy for customers to find their size and confirm before they purchase. Making sure the size chart is part of the checkout workflow is a great way to decrease returns.

As we are in the holiday season, it’s also incredibly important for brick-and-mortar stores to have a clear sizing system in place for those who are purchasing gifts for others. More than 20% of all returns happen during the holidays, and many of those can be attributed to gifts that don’t fit. Small businesses can make it easy for customers shopping for others by clearly highlighting the sizing and fit of popular items.

Employ An Attentive Team

When it comes to in-store purchases, an attentive team can be the key decision maker. Engaged employees can also be exceptionally helpful when it comes to reducing returns. Team members can help answer questions, bring new sizes to the fitting room, and inform customers about new products and promotions.

One way independent retailers can ensure all employees are attentive and interacting with customers is to implement an incentive program. As employees engage with customers and help them feel comfortable with their new purchases, they can also be rewarded for their attentiveness. Small business owners can work with employees to determine the best course of actionkeeping the customer top-of-mind the whole time.

Always Include A ‘Find In Store’ Option Online

For retailers with both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores, having a ‘find in store’ option during a checkout workflow can directly influence return rates for the better. With this option, online shoppers can locate an item in a store nearby and then choose to have it held for them or purchase it and pick the item up at a later time. Many times, however, customers will come into the store to try on the item before even purchasing. Again, engaging and touching merchandise before making a purchase greatly reduces the risk of returns, meaning e-commerce retailers should do everything in their power to try to entice shoppers with an in-person buying experience.

For retailers and consumers alike, engaging with products (and each other!) in a store can create a mutually beneficial, comfortable shopping experience. When customers have the option to engage with and try on merchandise, they’re more likely to keep their purchases instead of return them. What types of strategies does your team employ to help reduce the risk of returns?

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