How to use data to reduce apparel returns in eCommerce

By Natalie Joy

April 28, 2022

We talk a lot about how Shopify brands can turn returns management practices into revenue driving machines. One way to do that is by correctly analyzing the return data you collect from your shoppers.

Analyzing return data is one of the easiest and most effective ways to optimize your eCommerce apparel brand and delight your customers. Think about it. This type of information from your customers is real—oftentimes blunt—advice and comments on your products. Whether the size isn’t right or the color is way off, merchants can analyze this data and see trends that can help improve their products.

It’s easy to brush off returns and simply focus on customer acquisition efforts, but when brands do that they forget about the importance of customer retention. You can only acquire so many customers. At some point, you have to focus on how to get your customers to come back and continue repurchasing!

That’s where streamlining your returns management processes come into play. Studying returns data is the first step to retaining customers and growing your brand.

Why managing returns can be a challenge

From apparel to technology to home goods, managing returns is a difficult task across the board. With the apparel and fashion industry having some of the highest return rates in eCommerce, customer returns can be especially difficult.

The apparel industry faces many challenges when it comes to online shopping. Without a strong attention to detail to product descriptions, photography, sizing, and other miscellaneous details, your brand is bound to see a high rate of returns.

Use data to improve your products

So far in 2022, 69% of Americans have shopped online and 59% of those shoppers purchased clothing items. While in-store shopping is still popular among many shoppers, the adoption of online shopping has skyrocketed and is predicted to continue in the coming years.

Online shopping tends to prompt more returns because let’s face it, not everything in pictures translates the same in person. How often have you shopped online only to receive an item that was a very different shade of green? Or the pants that you got were about 3 inches too short? This type of data from your customers is vital to improving your products.

Most returns come down to sizing issues

The top return reason for apparel brands comes down to sizing. In fact, 70% of items were returned in 2021 because the item didn’t fit according to a consumer survey.

The reality is that shopping in-store is a very different experience than shopping online. Customers can try a product out before committing to it in person and online shopping doesn’t come with that luxury. That means that merchants need to do everything possible to match the in store experience and boost confidence in customers.

Shopify merchants can do this by:

  • Focusing on photography: This means #nofilter. Overediting and harsh lighting can drastically impact what a product looks like in person. Utilizing both studio light and natural light is a great way to show your shoppers the true color of an item.

  • Creating detailed product descriptions: Yes, it does take more time to create unique product descriptions, but your ROI will thank you in the end.

  • Showcasing reviews: Product pages with customer reviews bring in 3.5x more conversions than those without! Having real customer reviews readily available allows customers to shop more confidently.

Return reasons are the holy grail

Even if you do everything right, you’ll still get returns—and that’s okay! Not everything works out, but with return reasons directly from customers, you can get to the root of the problem (and solution!) right away.

The Return Rabbit platform is built to allow Shopify merchants to easily grab powerful data from the source (aka your customers). Let’s say, for example, you’re a clothing brand with a best selling t-shirt that comes in a variety of colors and sizes. But for some reason, the pink t-shirt has a higher return rate than the blue one. How? They are exactly the same shirt, just a different color.

Turns out the pink dye shrinks the fabric almost one full size! With this information, now you can improve your product description and encourage shoppers to size up in the pink shirt. One extra sentence in a product description can save you a lot of heartache (and sales!).

Pro Tip: Turn return reasons into customer recommendations on your product detail page!

Example of an exchange with a return reason that the top was too small.

To further identify any problems with your products, it’s best practice to incorporate a mix of standard and custom return reasons. Allowing customers to expand on the reason for their return may bring an issue to light that you never thought of before!

See how Honeylove utilized return reasons and saw a 179% increase in total sales in our case study.

Use data to understand your consumers better

Discover emerging trends in returns and exchanges

Return and exchange trends within your Shopify store can provide extremely valuable information. This includes how many refunds and exchanges are currently processing and how they are shifting so you can better inform your returns management strategy and internal processes.

You may discover that over the past month, 50% of your interactions have been manual instead of utilizing automations. By reevaluating how you use your returns management platform and reallocating resources, you could cut that number in half in a day. By automating your processes, your team can focus on more important things.

A 360 degree view of shopper behavior

To better serve your customers, you need to know your customer on a personal level. Insights about how your shoppers access returns, how often they’re exchanging items, the risk of a return per sale, and how quickly your customers send products back is vital for success. This data will allow you to segment your customers to help determine the ideal return window for your brand and how to best connect with your customers.

All the data you need in one easy to use platform

Returns management data is an infinite well of information for Shopify brands and at the heart of what we do here at Return Rabbit. Our revenue-focused, data driven technology gives our merchants a deeper look into their returns data. In one-click you can easily see the amount of revenue retained via exchanges, amount of refunds processed, and more.

Take a closer look at the rich analytics within the Return Rabbit platform here or schedule a demo with our team.

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