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The High Returns Era Means Online Fashion Must Play For Keeps, Not Just Sales

By Sponsor

20 Jun 2022


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Online fashion brands are facing a flood of returns that shows no sign of slowing - in fact, the tide is rising. ReBOUND data highlights that in the UK alone, the volume of online fashion returns is currently 55% higher than this time last year. Today’s customers are increasingly savvy to how easy it is to return online purchases - it now takes the average shopper just three days between registering their intent to return an item and actually sending the item back to the retailer, whereas pre-COVID this gap was nine days. This may sound inconsequential, but it means that stock and refund requests are moving around at a faster rate than ever before, piling pressure on brands to satisfy returners and keep stock available for those likely to keep it.

With this in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising to see some brands examine their own policies and explore new approaches to returns. Consistently high volumes of returns play havoc with supply chains, impact the environment and even if shipping is paid for by the consumer, processing unwanted items still costs a brand money. It’s clear that the old fast fashion approach of ‘sell as much as you can, to everyone you can’ simply isn’t sustainable.

It’s natural to see returns rise alongside online fashion sales and over the coming months we expect to see a host of different approaches announced as fashion businesses reimagine their returns policies. But before that, what initial steps can be taken?

Marketers are understandably obsessed with getting products out the door. Efficient conversions and fast, convenient delivery are the lifeblood of online brands. However, marketing’s fixation on moving a product from the shopper’s basket to their front door has only piled on returns pressure as the number of people shopping online has exploded over the last two years.

Pushing consumers into last-minute purchases - by surfacing cut-price deals or post purchase emails with discount codes - may boost conversions, but should be deployed with care. More often than not, these spontaneous purchases become returns as customers experience buyer’s remorse or more savvier shoppers duplicating their order to receive the discount and returning a whole basket.

Brands should also consider how consumers utilise online shopping opportunities and loopholes. Badgering customers with ‘spend £10 more for free delivery’ promotions only shines a glaring spotlight on the chance for shoppers to seize on a deal and return that unnecessary pair of gloves later, for free.

Marketers should keep marketing, but extra care is needed to avoid that initial spike in conversions turning into a castle built on sand. Playing for the keep, rather than just the initial sale, makes far more financial sense and will keep consumers coming back for items they really want. Spotlight and sell items that are genuinely desired by the consumer, provide accurate sizing and listing information.

Above all, marketers must push for further investment in data tracking. An intelligent, data-driven returns strategy will help brands plan for the future by knowing which items are en route back to them - but it will also empower marketers to cherish and learn from shoppers who return items. If you're seeing a constant stream of the same jumper with consumers blaming weak fabric, it’s likely that you’ve got a manufacturing problem that needs addressing. Utilising data brands are also able to better track their carbon emissions and implement offsetting measures like tree planting, all contributing to more sustainable returns.

In this high returns era, brands need to take the long-term approach, power marketing strategies with returns data and play for the keep - rather than focusing on relentless conversion.

ReBound logo, courtesy of the brand

Author: Laura Garrett, Returns Expert, ReBOUND a Reconomy Group company

To find out more about ReBound Returns, click here.