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How to Reduce Apparel Return Rates with Customer Reviews

If you sell clothing online, you know it has a higher return rate than many other categories. While some customers wear clothing they’ve purchased online fully intending to return them, other customers find they aren’t satisfied with the look, feel, or fit of an item once they have a chance to try the item on.

Matt Parsons, Chief Customer Officer at PowerReviews, said product ratings and reviews can cut down on such legitimate returns. He also points to some additional advantages that online merchants gain from customer reviews along with some tips on how to implement them for your business.

How to Reduce Apparel Return Rates with Customer Reviews

By Matt Parsons

Year after year, apparel return rates remain one of the biggest hurdles for brands and retailers in terms of profit growth. And with today’s shoppers expected to send 30 percent of clothing and shoes back to the shelves, it’s increasingly important for retailers to find ways to minimize returns.

The good news is that there’s a resource these retailers can use to not only reduce returns, but increase traffic and conversions as well – product ratings and reviews. By bridging the gap between online and in-store shopping experiences, ratings and reviews provide a wealth of information about a product and other shoppers’ experiences with it. And the more informed a shopper is going into a purchase, the more satisfied they’ll be once it arrives on their doorstep.

Here are the two ways we’ve seen apparel retailers use ratings and reviews to reduce returns and how you can implement this tactic for your business.

Increased product knowledge
When purchasing apparel, customers want to know about the fit and feel of a product. And one of the biggest challenges online shoppers face is that it’s often hard to be sure of a product’s exact size, quality of material and fit. And that’s where customer reviews come into play.

Use the feedback of customers who’ve already purchased these products to put future shoppers’ minds at ease. Product reviews, and even Q&A technology on product pages, will help to answer any questions prospective buyers might have.

While the product information provided by a retailer certainly has its place, this deeper level of feedback will help consumers make more confident purchase decisions and be less likely to return the items they purchase.

Additional quality control 
For apparel items, faulty clasps, broken zippers and mis-sewn seams come by all too often. Luckily for retailers, reviews serve as an extra layer of quality control by unifying the feedback about each of your products, allowing you to see trends and quickly spot any issues.

With regular monitoring of review data, apparel retailers can easily see common complaints and make the appropriate fix with the manufacturer before more returns are necessary. And the faster retailers are able to fix the problem, the lower the risk of a tarnished reputation and continued returns.

How to implement customer reviews to reduce returns
In a perfect world, customers would buy a product and immediately leave a product review. But the reality is, that’s often not the case and consumers need a little push to provide their feedback. Here are a couple of best practices for a return-reducing review strategy.

Implement post purchase emails. Studies show that up to 70% of consumer reviews originate from post purchase emails, so it’s important to use them to generate reviews. Follow up on apparel purchases with emails that are visually appealing, personalized and optimized for mobile devices. Keep in mind that most apparel shoppers purchase multiple items at once, so be sure to include each item purchased in your email rather than just highlighting one. And just as apparel items move quickly on and off the shelves, you’ll need to solicit reviews quickly in order to push out relevant product information to future buyers.

Provide access to mobile reviews. From browsing product information to reading reviews on-the-go, consumers are increasingly using their phones throughout the entire shopping journey and many are even using their phones for research while in store. In fact, 70% of shoppers want to access product ratings and reviews while shopping in-store.

Mobile-optimized ratings and reviews help shoppers find the information they seek, no matter what device they’re using to search. To guarantee your reviews are mobile friendly, ensure your website is quick-loading, visually appealing and cleanly formatted for a mobile screen.

Include images in review content. While it’s important to include professional photos of your products on your site, allow reviewers to submit their own photos of what your products look to provide “real life” examples for future buyers.

This is especially important for apparel, since it enables shoppers to better judge a product’s fit and style on different body types. By incorporating user photos, shoppers can see what a bag might look like on a real person or how a cardigan fits on someone with a similar body type, ultimately helping them make a more confident purchase decision.

Consult a professional. When in doubt, leave it to the professionals to help set-up and coach you in your product review endeavors. Leaders in the industry, such as PowerReviews, have the experience and knowledge it takes to generate and syndicate reviews to drive traffic, increase conversion and create actionable insights for retailers and brands.

Just as you wouldn’t ask your doctor to change your oil, don’t ask your engineers or designers to implement your review strategy.

About the Guest Columnist:

Matt Parsons is the chief customer officer at PowerReviews, a software company that helps more than 1,000 brands and retailers collect, display and syndicate customer reviews and answer customer questions.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.