Retail Search 'Fit' Recommendations Fail To Curtail Returns

As consumer expectations continue to shape online shopping, retailers are under increased pressure to deliver personalized shopping capabilities. Most have mastered search and discovery. Now the challenge has become trying to find the correct item size to reduce the number of returns made by consumers.

Overall, returns cost retailers about $351 billion annually as a percentage of total sales, according to one report. In 2017, online sales returned to brick-and-mortar stores averaged 10.7% of all online sales.

Some 95% of shoppers use search filters when looking for clothes online. And 88% select “size” as one of the filters. A new global study from Rakuten Fits Me, a maker of fit and search recommendation technology, provides an in-depth look into what consumers think about online shopping and their personal experiences with fashion. It also looks at whether the ecommerce apparel sector meets the challenging demands of consumers who buy online as they try to determine the correct size and fit of pants, shirts, dresses and more. The study was completed by about 1,400 consumers.

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One major theme of the 2018 Consumer Online Shopping, Size & Fit Satisfaction Survey focuses on size and fit accuracy, which can help reduce the returns. About 69% of shoppers find it difficult to get the correct size the first time.

Some 62% of respondents in the survey feel that retailers should provide additional support around online size and fit, and 72% say they would be more likely to purchase if the merchant offered online fit recommendation tools.

About 88% of consumers who shop online select the "size" search filter, of which 54% select two or more sizes at one time, thinking that one of the two will fit. They typically return the other.

The biggest issue with using a size filter involves inconsistent and inaccurate sizing charts. Most consumers would rather purchase styles from brands they already know, which hinders their ability to explore new products.

Some 58% use a price range search filter, followed by category at 54%, color at 47% and brand at 28%.

Rakuten Fits Me’s new survey also revealed that 79% of shoppers admit to searching for clothing online only to discover the merchandise is out of stock. When they discover that an item is out of stock, 24% of survey participants said they abandon the purchase, while 28% went to another website and 29% kept shopping but felt annoyed.

The study also found that 95% of consumers use search filters when shopping online for clothing. About 19% said they find online size charts unhelpful, and 67% find them somewhat helpful but believe the charts could be better.

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