Picture this — a woman shopping online buys six pairs of running tights in various colors and sizes. The idea being, let’s see what fits and what these colors/patterns actually look like in person and in the mirror. The intent when purchased is to only keep two sweaters and send the rest back.

That is the new reality of consumer behavior when it comes to buying apparel online. And run specialty retailers are going to have to get used to it.

Even more, specialty retailers are seeing similar scenarios in their brick-and-mortar stores as well. As retail stores continue to open (most with closed fitting rooms) more and more people are turning their homes into their own personal dressing room.


Defining Return Policies

Consumer shopping habits are changing as brands refine their return policies and out of necessity make it easier than ever to return product. With most fitting rooms closed and the home being the new dressing room, most companies are defaulting to generous return policies, free shipping and free returns consumers are buying more and more online.

Indeed, in the first half of 2020 ecommerce sales increased 30 percent year over year from 2019. And a simple fact of retail life is that more online shopping also means more returns.

Online and specialty retail consumers are basing their decision to buy on the ease of return policies. For example, return rates in brick-and-mortar stores averages around eight percent Ñ for online orders that average jumps to 25 percent.

This brings us to why consumers are making returns in the first place. Are customers unhappy with the products they are purchasing? Not necessarily.

¥ 80 percent are returning product due to it arriving damaged.

¥ 64 percent say the item purchased does not match the description of the product.

¥ 30 percent are saying they are making purchases with the intent to return, both online and at brick-and-mortar locations.


Making Returns A Pleasure

Product returns do not always have to have a negative connotation. Too often, the phrase “I need to return this” brings thoughts of a bad purchasing experience. No one wants to have their shopping experience associated with the word “sad.” Sad it didn’t fit, sad the product didn’t match the website description or image, sad the product had to be returned.


The Importance of A Good Return Policy

On average, four percent of current Channel Signal consumer reviews mention product returns. Data suggests that sentiment around a brand drops about 62 percent when people are talking about returns in their reviews. However, reviews that mention returns can have very little to do with the product itself and much more to do with return policies, customer service and the overall ease of the return process.

With retail spending increasing Ð sales actually jumped 5.3 percent in January Ð consumers will focus on the return policy even when deciding on their purchase. Around 68 percent of shoppers view a return policy before making a purchase and 50 percent of shoppers abandon their purchase due to a lack of return choices.

Positive reviews that mention returns are mostly based off of that return policy and the ease of returning product. Consumers trust other consumers making product reviews extremely relevant to the buying process.

Consumers are drawn to experiences that promote ease of use. This is especially true when it comes to return policies. The more a brand or retailer addresses not only their return policy, but the return process as well, the better. An easy, clear return policy can create long term brand champions.