Product returns are a big problem that every online store deals with. It is a complete loss of revenue, as the cost for delivering the item for the first time, as well as arranging for the return and completing the entire logistics cycle to return the product to the seller, is costly. Every online portal dreads the word ‘’returns.’’ However, they have to have a flexible returns policy to ensure that the customers can return the things which they did not like/did not fit them, etc.
If one runs an online portal, they are always looking for ways to reduce costs, and reducing the costs by minimizing product returns will be good for their business. Statistics show that out of every three products sold online, one is returned. Returns are less for grocery items and FMCG (Fast-moving consumer goods) goods. Since size and other specifications do not come into the picture, returns in the FMCG sector can be minimized. The consumer has been buying the same brand of shampoo, toothpaste, or chocolate and s/he knows what to expect. Only for fresh produce, if the quality of the item is not good, the consumer will return it. Or if the seller has sent broken/leaked packages or if the expiry date has gone past are the other reasons for product returns in the FMCG world.
However, for fashion brands, product returns happen for entirely different reasons. Let’s look at the possible ways of minimizing fashion brand product returns.
Big e-tailers like Flipkart and Amazon put the cost of return pick up on the seller. Their logic is if the customer did not like the product or the size did not fit them, it is the fault of the seller. The seller failed to put the product specifications properly on the product description page, and hence the customer was unable to place the order correctly.
Ensuring detailed product descriptions with proper sizing guidelines will reduce the number of product returns. Every e-tailer tries to woo the customer to buy the product with liberal product return policies. Statistics prove that buyers shy away from buying those products which they can’t return. They worry that their money will be wasted if they don’t like the product or the product does not meet their requirements. Hence the e-tailers should keep liberal return policies, however, ensure their product descriptions are up to the mark.
The seller needs to ensure that the exact color and size of the garment are sent to the customer. Most human errors happen at this step of online delivery. Hence the seller needs to have efficient staff to ensure that they send the right size and color to the customer.
Before the garment is packed and sent to the customer, the seller should check for any kind of defects. Sometimes the stitches might have come off, or a button or hook might have been missing. Sometimes the zipper might not be working smoothly. Ensuring good quality control from the seller will surely reduce product returns.
Online customers always read the reviews of the garment before they buy it. They look for pictures taken by other customers for the actual look and feel of the dress/shirt/blazer etc. Hence the sellers who constantly solicit product reviews from the customers and ensure that their portal is full of customer reviews for each product they are selling garner more sales and lesser product returns.
Customers often buy a product online only when they are sure that they don’t have to return it. Returning is a big hassle for both the buyer and the seller. Hence if the online store wants to reduce their product returns percentage, they should ensure that all their products are reviewed by genuine buyers.
Jewelry portals like Caratlane, Bluestone, and Tanishq have come up with the concept of try before you buy. They encourage customers to book an appointment and choose the designs they want to try out. This reduces product returns as the customers get a chance to see how the piece of jewelry looks on them.
Since jewelry is an expensive item, returns cost inventory blocking for the company. Since these portals have a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy, all the returned items have to be stored in the company warehouses, increasing their operational costs. These online jewelry portals were launched with the whole idea of reducing overhead costs and breaking the costs involved in having huge stores. Now the customer can order products which they want to buy, and each piece will be ‘made-to-order.’
The same can be introduced for expensive haute couture, at least if not for less expensive products. If someone is planning to spend Rs. 5K or above for a dress/saree/sherwani, it is obvious that they would like to check the fit and material with their own eyes. They would like to wear the item and check the fitting. That’s why for apparel shopping in India, only products below Rs. 1000 are mostly sold online. For expensive items, party wear, bridal wear, the customers prefer to go to the store and try them out before buying.
Apart from that, the online fashion brand should upload high-quality visuals of the products from multiple angles. If it is a dress, multiple pictures from the front, back, and side profile should be taken and uploaded. Videos of the model wearing that dress will receive more clicks on the product page by the prospective buyers.
If the customer receives the product in a condition where the packaging was torn and the product was damaged, it is obvious that they will return it. It will be a complete waste for the seller as they will not be able to sell that damaged product to any other customer. Hence the seller should use bubble wraps and sturdy packaging to ensure that product returns are minimized.
The sellers who refund store credit find themselves with lower sales figures. A store credit binds the customer to buy a product only from that fashion brand in the future, and there is an expiry date for that. Often the customers forget about store credits, and they expire. The entire brand image is spoilt if something like this happens as the customer vows never to shop from that online portal.
Hence the seller should always return the money. This will increase the faith of the customer in that e-tailer and they will return in the future for more products. Product returns will not be reduced by this method; however, the customer’s faith will increase.
When a customer places an online delivery request, they are not ready to wait beyond 48 hours. Often the customers will go to the store and buy the product and cancel the delivery if it takes beyond 48 hours. This is a complete loss for the online portal as the item might be in transit, and it has to be returned back to the seller’s warehouse.
At the same time, the online portal should have a responsive customer service team. The customers have queries about products, their return policies, etc., and if the contact center is unable to give the required response through calls, chat, or e-mails, then the customers will not place orders. If they have placed an order and were not happy with their first shopping experience, they will quickly switch to the competitor.
Apart from these eight methods mentioned above, there are quite a few other things an online fashion brand should do to avoid product returns. They should deploy good data science tools which will give the administrator of the portal a comprehensive report of the returned goods. If they find that one particular item is returned by multiple buyers, that means there might be an issue with the product itself. Keeping such products in the catalog will not do any good to the company.
It is better to remove such products as these products are not adding to the top line of the company but are eating away the profits.
So now you know the ways to reduce product returns for your online fashion brand. Try them out for one quarter and see the results. Keep track of the returns properly and check if the above-mentioned tactics worked.
For launching new clothing lines every season, you need a dependable sourcing partner. Fashinza is an ethical sourcing partner that will help you to connect with textile manufacturers from across the globe. You need not worry about the type of fabric and its logistics. You can relax and just focus on your designs, and the rest will be taken care of by Fashinza.