As consumers who shop for clothes and shoes online, buying clothes online has become a confusing and stressful process when it comes to finding the right size, with the right fit. Clearly it is a frustrating experience for a shopper, but it has also very real and tangible effect on fashion online businesses.
According to a recent survey of Fashion Executives in the Nordics, 65% of shoppers leave the website without a purchase if they are unsure about the size and fit. This is especially a case for direct-to-consumer brands that are newly launched or are expanding in a new segment. First-time shoppers are likely to be unsure about sizes, which can create a hesitation to buy, and hence, lower conversion.
Without a reference item from a similar store, a first-time customer faces a considerably higher challenge when making their first buy from another store. This is why it is so important for these stores to instil confidence in their buyers by providing them assistance in regards with the sizing and fitting.
According to a survey by GlobalData, size and fit are among the top reasons for returning online orders. More than 50% of the returns are because the items do not fit properly. This only adds an extra layer of costs that further erode retailers’ already thin profit margins. In light of questionable sizing frameworks, practices like bracketing – buying different sizes of similar things online and returning the ones that don't fit, are becoming very common and adding to colossal losses for online retailers. A report by KPMG states that,
For eCommerce companies, an astonishing 14% of returns have been found to be fraudulent. This shows that whilst generous returns policies are important for customer satisfaction, it is important for company profitability to make returns barriers high, and be tough in enforcing them.
Returns have the biggest impact on e-commerce profitability. These returns lead to lower profits not just due to the sales that are lost, but also because of increase in costs to transport, and extra requirements from labor for examining the returned items and restocking activities. Sourcing more product to keep inventories loaded likewise accompanies additional expenses. Many times, half of the products that are returned lose value and cannot be resold further due to several reasons. It's estimated that often total costs of a return (transportation, warehousing, processing, selling at a discount etc.) add up to 20% of an item's price.
Along with the returns, there comes a lot of overhead costs. E-commerce stores require more manpower to handle individual inquiries from shoppers with respect to sizing. Businesses need to consider reverse logistics, conservation of value, tracking of goods, processing time, internal and external fraud, customer brand perception, corporate social responsibility and sustainability. For all these reasons, the customer support staff is overwhelmed with calls and queries. This can lead to exhaustion and demotivation of employees as well. One might consider hiring more people for customer queries, but that only increases costs.
The problem of sizing does not only affect the business in the ways mentioned above, but also has an impact on the environment, a devastating one.
It is a fact that items that fit well are used 70% longer than items with poor fit, and rightly so.
Returning a single item using a courier emits 203 -362g CO2. This emits 4.7 million metric tons of CO2 yearly – enough to power 565k homes for one year.
This does not end here. 30% of returned items are burnt or dumped, and 13,500 billion litres of water is wasted on producing returned items that end up on landfills. That’s more than quarter billion people drink in one year. Crystal Lassiter, UPS senior director of Global Sustainability & Environmental Affairs, wrote in a report-
We're driving more miles, using more energy, and generating more emissions in response to market demands and to serve the growing supply chain needs of our customers.
For decades the fashion industry looked at the sizing problem as either something that will never be solved, or the accepted evil. Today, any fashion brand has a choice to follow the old suit or break the cycle and address this problem that put such a massive financial pressure and has a devastating impact on the environment.