In the clothing industry, online return rates are phenomenally high.
One study by retail research firm Customer Growth Partners reported that 30% of clothing and shoes bought online will be returned, a significantly higher figure than for in-store purchases.
Why? It mostly comes down to fit. The 2012 Draper’s Etail Report found that a whopping 70% of all internet returns for fashion goods are fit related. Customers can’t try garments on before they buy, so it’s unsurprising that receiving something that’s just the right size is rather more miss than hit. Nowhere is this truer than the lingerie industry, where bra fit requires the utmost precision and expertise.
So how can you, as an online retailer of bras and other lingerie, lower your return rate? Well, you could make the returns process really difficult – but of course, that’s not a good idea. You’d only be putting people off placing an order in the first place.
If the returns are related to fit
What you really need to be doing is providing the customer with as much information as possible on product fit, so that they have the best possible chance of ordering the right size. Here are 5 ways to do just that:
Detailed size charts
It’s not enough to simply list size options like S, M, L, or even numeric clothing sizes. In an industry with very little standardisation, a customer may well wear a size 10 in one brand and a 12 or 14 in another. A size chart or size options that include specific measurements – for example, “XS – fits 86-89cm hips” – will greatly increase the chances that your customer orders lingerie that fits.
Include fit notes
Have you brought in a line of bras that come up particularly tight or loose in the band? Say so. If you don’t, you’re just setting yourself up for an exceptionally high returns rate on that range. If you’re a high-volume retailer, it may be worth the investment to work with a fit model, so that you can provide these kinds of notes for every one of your products.
List the model’s measurements
If your lingerie is displayed on a model, list their height and clothing size or specific measurements. It will help your customers for example to decide if that night-slip is going to be much longer or shorter on them, which may change how they feel about it!
Allow customer reviews
Reviews are an excellent feature for online retailers for a number of reasons. In the lingerie world though, they’re a particularly good way to crowd-source those important fit notes I mentioned – especially if you don’t have the budget to hire a fit model.
You could even allow customers to rate or comment on specific aspects of the fit when leaving a review. I would love to shop from a bra retailer that had a couple of sliders on each product, showing whether the average customer thinks the band and cups fit small, large or true to size.
Research new brands carefully
Lastly, when you’re considering stocking a new lingerie brand, take some time to read reviews yourself – by bloggers, or left on other retailers’ sites. Ask yourself, are lots of people complaining about sizing issues? You won’t be doing yourself a favour by bringing on brands with a reputation for poor fit.
If the returns are unrelated to fit
All of the above can help you to lower online returns for the 70% of customers who send items back over fit issues – but what about the other 30%? I’ve personally sent lingerie back because it didn’t look the way I expected it to, or the quality was much lower than I’d expected. Here are a couple more ways you can help to reduce your online returns rate:
Photos, photos, photos
It’s not enough to have a single, front-on shot of each garment. In store, a customer can twirl the bra around to see what it looks like at the back, and try it on to see the shape it gives from all angles. They can look close-up at the finer details, like the quality of the embroidery.
Aim to recreate this offline experience as best you can, by providing the customer with lots of images – front, side, back and zoomed-in. Some retailers even include interactive images that can be swiveled 360°, or videos.
A great description
Use your product description to describe those features that aren’t seen in the images, such as whether the padding inside the bra is removable or built into the cup. Include the specific fabric content too – if you describe a brief as ‘cotton’ but it turns out to be a cotton-blend, your customer with sensitive skin and allergies may not be too happy about it!
All in all, there are plenty of ways to reduce online returns on lingerie. If you’re considering whether to introduce (or scrap) ‘free returns’, consider that it can be a highly effective marketing tool, but will make returns more likely. Weigh up the benefit of increasing purchases vs. whether you can really afford the associated postage costs.
Even with a free returns policy, you can still use the above tips to keep use of it to a minimum –sending a bra back may be free, but the customer won’t do it if they love what they’ve bought.
Do you struggle with a high returns rate for your online lingerie store? Have you implemented anything on your website that worked to lower it?