Guest Blog: Andy Burton: The rise of the serial returner
Andy Burton is CEO at Tryzens Group. Since 2004, Tryzens has worked as an independent expert to Plan, Build, Run and Enhance eCommerce solutions in order to optimise retail performance. Andy has over 30 years of leadership experience in technology and IT organisations, having held CEO roles at Content Technologies, Centennial Software and Fasthosts.
With 68% of online consumers stating that they would be willing to provide their personal measurements to retailers to ensure the ‘right fit first time’ when purchasing clothes, fashion/apparel retailers have an ideal opportunity to take action to enhance their online experience and help defeat the growing financial impact of returns.
The lack of any sizing standards is at the heart of the problem where consumer confusion over the market’s variability in size and fit by brands is directly contributing to the rise of the ‘Serial Returner’, which in turn is impacting profitability.
The increasing consumer expectation for free delivery and returns is effectively fuelling potentially damaging buying behaviours such as wardrobing (wear once and return), and the ordering of multiple sizes to then return the sizes not needed. These behaviours materially impact operating costs in checking and restocking, increases the risk of wastage and directly reduces sales revenue.
Tackling this is a major undertaking, as clothing is a very personal purchase; style, colour, texture, fit and size all must be conveyed online through good photography and accurate data. However, the solution must not create too much friction in the customers’ online experience as this will reduce their engagement and sales conversion. With an average cost of handling returns at £15 per order returned, it is clearly a cost for retailers to mitigate, especially when return rates can exceed 50% of orders in some online businesses.
Whilst there are far too many challenges in tying to migrate to a universal size guide, the problem can be tackled from a different perspective, one that leverages the capability of technology to personalise a consumer experience. For example, this phenomenon of serial returners could be reduced or eradicated by improving the shopping experience and the outcome for the consumer in sending the right size first time. There are two big ‘if’s’:
1: If retailers explore the notion of accessing a consumers’ personal size/measurement data as a ‘service’ (that any online retailer could securely access) when a consumer browses their site, and, 2: if retailers maps their products to actual measurements (whilst retaining their labelling scheme). In such an environment it is impossible that a Product Listing Page (or search results) could present products that would accurately fit the consumer. If the retailer also overlaid current stock availability into the search you could further improve the efficiency and customer experience presenting items first of all that are available in stock!
Recent research conducted by eCommerce specialist Tryzens revealed that if a retailer could present a PLP that was already checked against size and stock availability so that the consumer only saw what was available, the benefits of avoiding wasted searches and a simplified shopping experience appealed to 80% of the participants.
The serial returner issue around clothing is significant above all other retail verticals and accurate size is a key contributor. As such, the issue needs to be redressed by being able to translate a consumer’s personal measurements into any retailer’s specific labelling to ensure the correct size can be purchased. Consumers want to be confident that they will receive goods that fit correctly, first time. Getting this right can positively influence consumer behaviour, and therefore has the capacity to materially reduce the significant cost burden facing retailers whilst improving customer experience.