Nearly a quarter of online clothing purchases returned by shoppers

23 September 2016

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  • 76% of shoppers return clothing items due to fit or size issues
  • Returners are most likely to be female, younger and higher income
  • Clothing supply chain to be integrated, lean and supported by rich digital technologies within 10 years

Online shoppers return on average 2.2 items out of every 10 of their clothing purchases, according to EY’s ‘Zero clothing returns. Digital future or fairytale?’ report – a survey of 1,000 online UK shoppers. Of these returns, 76% are sent back due to a fit or sizing issue. For 60% of online shoppers, ‘the returns policy is one of the most important things they look for when considering using an online store’. And, 50% of online shoppers are ‘happy to buy things online that they’re not sure about, as it is easy to return them’. However, 66% of them dislike having to return items.

The survey respondents were separated into ‘returners’ and ‘non-returners’, with returners more likely to be female, younger and earning a higher income. Women are also more than twice as likely than men to say they ‘ordered more than one of the same item to try different sizes’ (15% vs. 7%). In addition, younger shoppers (18-24 years) are most likely to say they made a return because the item ‘didn’t match the description or picture online’ (24% vs. 19% average).

Helen Merriott, Partner and Advisory Markets Leader, EY says: “Retailers have a number of choices and decisions to make, the first of which is how they respond to this range of customer behaviour.

“Our survey results show that the majority of online clothes shoppers want convenience of delivery and returns. They want cheap and easy delivery and do not want to be penalised or charged for returning goods. That said, the same shoppers would prefer not to be bothered with the inconvenience of the returns process at all and would buy more online if they were more confident of the fit and knew that the retailer had used leading technology to improve the likelihood of this.”

Returners are also more likely to agree that they ‘love trying on the things they buy at home’ (74%) and it’s particularly ‘important that they get their look exactly right’ (63%). In comparison, non-returners are much more likely to agree that they ‘only buy clothes when they really have to’ (50%). Furthermore, 48% of returners prefer online shopping to shopping in a store, compared to 38% of non-returners. And, 74% of returners enjoy the experience of receiving the package in the post.

Helen adds: “Within ten years EY expects that the clothing supply chain will be integrated, lean and supported by rich digital technologies which will allow retailers to greatly enhance the online shopping experience of their customers.

“This will require digital support for supplier collaboration, 3D CAD patterns, analytics which model fabric behaviour, body scanning technologies and immersive online and physical store ‘try-on’ avatar experiences; all of this at scale, affordable and fully integrated.  While there is no single end-to-end solution which dominates, the technology is available today and we predict that within 10 years it will be mainstream.”

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