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U.K. consumers return near a quarter of their online clothing purchases

Online retailers can expect to see the cost of returns escalate as the proportion of online purchases increases.

EY’s “Zero clothing returns. Digital future or fairytale?” report uncovered that consumers returned on average 2.2 items out of every 10 of their clothing purchases. The survey of 1,000 online U.K. consumers found that 76% of those returns were being sent back due to fit or sizing issues.

Good return policy tantamount
As much as 60% of the survey respondents indicated ‘the returns policy is one of the most important things they look for when considering using an online store’, while 50% were ‘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.

Who’s more likely to return
The report identifies younger, wealthier females more likely to be “returners”. In fact, women were 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%). It also found younger shoppers, ages 18-24 years, 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 at EY, said: “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.”

Integrates digital tools help curb return rates
The inability to see, touch, or try the product continues to be an issue for online shoppers. However, B2C Europe’s recent “Making money out of returns” guide indicated online retailers experienced up to a 50% decline in return when customers use virtual sizing tools.

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.”

Find out more about this research and EY’s consumer products and retail services here.

Tags: Research, returns

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