Talia Shani
Talia Shani 2 October 2019

Reversing Returns: Putting Reviews at the Heart of Your Customer Satisfaction Strategy

The high cost of managing returns is keeping many ecommerce and marketing directors awake at night. Industry experts estimate that consumers return anywhere between 15% and 60% of their purchases, and it’s getting worse. According to GlobalData the cost of online returns in the UK alone are expected to reach £5.6 billion by 2023, rising by 27% since 2018.

When it comes to online fashion shopping – where trying on simply isn’t possible before buying – the issue of returns can be devastating. Recent research showed that 85% of UK shoppers admitted to having returned fashion items purchased online in the last year. And 78% of UK fashion shoppers had returned up to £500 in the last year alone, rising to 81% among 14 to 21-year olds.

Bad buying decisions drive returns

Apparel and footwear returns are frequently down to ill-informed buying decisions, leading to disappointment for customers, and therefore potential damage to the brand. If customers find items to be not what they hoped for, they are unlikely to forge loyal, lasting relationships with the fashion retailer in question. They will also be less inclined to give positive reviews on a website, or commend the shopping experience on social media. Research in our latest Fashion Ecommerce Report found that fit and quality issues were the top reasons prompting fashion returns for 83% of UK shoppers. This was followed by ‘items appearing different in the flesh compared to what they looked like online’ for a further 47%.

Reviews shine a light on fit and quality

There are steps retailers can take to tackle the issue of returns head on. One option is to charge for the service or penalise ‘serial returners’ as Asos now does, making shoppers more cautious about committing to a purchase. However, this can have its own negative implications for the brand and the customer experience, as well as reducing sales.

Another option is to provide on-site reviews and ‘social proof’ that will help shoppers make better buying decisions in the first place. This is particularly the case for Millennials and Gen Z who are so devoted to their phones and social media networks, where reviews can raise the chances of a ‘right-first-time’ purchase.

Apparel and footwear retailers are finding that reviews can help hugely in assuring shoppers that items will fit well and look and feel right. Seeing images, videos and comments from other customers describing the fabric on a dress or praising the cut of a pair of skinny jeans, can encourage shoppers to click the buy button.

Confidence drives conversions

When it comes to sizing reassurance when shopping online, Yotpo found that 63% of shoppers turn to user generated content, such as reviews, to get further clarity on fit information.

The vast majority - 86% - said that real-life photos of other customers wearing items of clothing were important when validating how a product would look like or fit them.  And 60% of shoppers said videos of real customers wearing products are “important” or “very important” in helping them to decide to purchase.

Reviews at the heart of your customer satisfaction strategy

These statistics confirm the critical role of reviews and social proof in omnichannel retail today, not only in assisting with online conversions but also, ultimately, in reducing returns.

Confidence around sizing is a significant contributor to both conversions and returns, so it’s imperative that online fashion retailers support the buying journey at each stage by instilling confidence in the size, style and fit of a product. Luckily, simple changes to the online UX can support this value-added service, and the beauty of user-generated content is that it is self-perpetuating and therefore relatively low cost to manage.

By seeing reviews from other customers prominently displayed alongside product imagery, customers feel they can validate their buying decision, making them more likely to convert and less likely to return. It’s a win-win for the retailer, delivering higher sales and lower returns, as well as powering higher levels of that all-important customer satisfaction.

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