The Key Problem with Online Clothes Shopping

Problems with online shopping
This week we tackle one of the key online clothes shopping frustrations that is problematic for both shoppers and e-commerce retailers alike.

Last year, the onslaught of COVID drove a surge of shoppers from in-store to online shopping. In a survey that was conducted by UNCTAD and Netcomm Suisse eCommerce Association, it was reported that online purchases had risen by six to ten percentage points across most product categories.

Some apparel retailers remained unaffected by the initial wave of the pandemic. For instance, Zalando – one of Europe’s leading fashion retail players- announced on the 15th of July that it had gained more than three million new customers leading to an estimated 34% growth in the recent quarter. Not to be outdone, other retail giants like Asos and Boohoo reported a climb in sales between March and June 2020.

That being said, the record shift in consumer behavior didn’t eradicate the problems that already existed in the retail industry – if anything it increased the risk of them being exacerbated.

The Size Issue – Key Problem with Online Clothes Shopping

Problem for Shoppers

In one of our recent articles, we covered five ways to prevent online shopping cart abandonment. The post gave e-commerce apparel retailers tips on how to ensure browsers converted to buyers. This week we are honing down on one key online clothes shopping problem that frustrates both shoppers and e-commerce retailers alike – the size issue.

We can’t mention size without referring to size charts. In our vanity sizing and size charts article, we explained the evolution of clothing manufacturing and how it contributed to the current haphazard state of sizing in the retail industry. All in all, we gathered that sizing had many layers to it, which explained why brands used different formulas in deciding the right fit for their items.

The lack of a standardized apparel size system means that from brand to brand and from country to country – your size can fluctuate. A size Small in one store, could be a Medium in another – understandably, this can make online shopping confusing and stressful. It also makes shoppers crave the offline opportunity of trying clothes on to be sure of the right fit.

With all this uncertainty, it’s no wonder the bracketing trend of buying multiple sizes of the same item in the hope of finding the perfect fit, continues to gain momentum. According to an annual consumer study done by Narvar in 2019, the highest percentage of customers who practice bracketing reside in Germany with 72%, U.K. followed with 61%, and the U.S. scored 48%.

Unsurprisingly, the study advises that some of the returns could be mitigated by providing a better fit.

Problems for E-Commerce Retailers

problems with online clothes shopping

Returns

E-commerce retailers also get the fuzzy end of the lollipop when it comes to onine clothes shopping because they bear the brunt of the size and fit problem via returns.

Based on a study conducted by a vendor in the U.S., DigitalCommerce360 reported that U.S. customers are ‘most likely to return an online order when the size, fit or color was wrong.’

This dissatisfaction in size, fit and color ends up having devastating costly consequences.

In the U.K., Barclaycard did a survey which revealed that ‘U.K. shoppers are returning £7 billion of purchases every year, leading to a ‘phantom economy’ of lost revenue for retailers.’

In America, Vogue Business attests that ‘U.S. returns alone create 5 billion pounds of landfill waste and 15 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually, equivalent to the amount of trash produced by 5 million people in a year.’

Data and analytics firm, GlobalData contributed to the topic by confirming that the highest rate of returns were from the clothing and footwear sector. The firm went further on to advise retailers to be prepared to handle the surge of returns to retain customer satisfaction.

Returns Experience

U.S. studies have found that the type of returns experience a shopper has can influence if they shop with the store again.

Sucharita Kodali, a Forrester Research Inc. analyst, expanded on this point by pointing out that retailers needed to provide customers with different types of flexible return services. She went on to say, ‘shoppers are demanding more convenient, flexible returns options, which means retailers must take a more strategic approach to how they enable facilitation of extended hours and locations, potentially through smart partnerships as we’ve seen recently with Kohl’s and Walgreens.’

Returns Post-Pandemic

With the pandemic forcing lots of retailers to close their doors, the need for e-commerce stores to utilize the shift in consumer behavior to tackle the issue of returns continues to grow. According to just-style online shopping is set to continue in an upward trajectory and the global fashion online market is expected to capture 36% of total fashion sales by 2022.

As online sales rise, so will returns and this is something retailers need to address.

When it comes to problems with online clothes shopping, we can see how the fit issue opens up a can of worms. It brings up issues like customer dissatisfaction, the financial strain returns make on logistics, and more – so what’s the solution?

The Solution to the Size Problem when Online Shopping

Quite rightly, when it comes to size and the returns issue, just-style recommends a data-driven approach. Our intuitive size advisor tool, Fit Finder, is powered by machine learning algorithms and the industry’s largest database. Fit Finder allows users to shop with confidence by asking relevant size-related questions.

To provide a fit recommendation, the solution cross-references the sales data accumulated by other shoppers, for e.g. the size of past items, which items were returned and kept etc. Due to this sophisticated machine learning framework, the solution is able to give more accurate recommendations over time.

We can’t mention Fit Finder without including the solution’s Multiple Size Alert feature. Earlier on in the article, the term bracketing was used to define the act of shoppers buying the same item in different sizes with the intention of returning the ill-fitting pieces and keeping the best fit. The Multiple Size Alert option tackles this issue because upon a shopper attempting to add a different size of the same item to their cart – a notification pops up advising the shopper to use Fit Finder to find that one perfect fit.

We are also pleased to report that surveys have shown that retailers who have enabled our Multiple Size Alert feature have experienced an estimated 13% decrease in multiple size orders. As a result of this drop, these retailers also witnessed a 6% reduction in their return rates.


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