Commentary

Opinion: Why the challenge of returns during the pandemic has meant sizing is even more important to get right

The rise in online sales has caused even greater challenges around returns, making the issue of accurate sizing more urgent than ever, explains Ronen Luzon, CEO of MySize.  

The seismic shift to online apparel and footwear sales triggered by the pandemic have had such a monumental impact on ecommerce that businesses refer to pre-March 2020 as BC – Before Coronavirus. With stay-at-home orders and lockdowns that defined the vast majority of brick-and-mortar apparel retailers as “non-essential,” online shopping for clothes and shoes exploded. Unsurprisingly, 2020 was a record year for ecommerce, with sales reaching $861 billion.

But the ecommerce revolution has a major downside for retailers. Stunning return rates —up to 40% — cost businesses some $9 billion in 2020. The billions of dollars needed for reverse logistics have led industry titans including Amazon and Walmart to offer refunds to customers even without requiring them to return unwanted products. But for brands that aren’t worth billions, the costs of returns are enough to significantly impact smaller and medium-sized businesses, already on shaky ground due to the pandemic.

The number one reason cited by consumers for apparel and footwear returns is incorrect fit, and the issue has long been the thorn in the side of online retailers. Even before the pandemic, sky-high return rates for apparel bought online were already causing brands to haemorrhage money. In 2019, online fashion brand Revolve sold $499 million in product – but spent a staggering $531 million on customer returns.

The guessing game when it comes to sizing, especially when fitting rooms were closed and it wasn’t possible to try on instore even when stores were open has led many consumers to engage in bracketing, which is when consumers order the same item in multiple sizes, with the intention of keeping just one item and returning the rest.  According to a recent survey, 62% of online shoppers admitted to bracketing a purchase made in 2020.

That’s not to mention the environmental damage from tons of returns. Transporting returned merchandise back to fulfillment centres and warehouses adds 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – that’s even more than what 3 million extra cars on the road would put out annually.

Sizing tech is a critical tool in an online apparel retailer’s arsenal to stop costly returns before they happen. Leveraging sensors already built into customer’s smartphones, machine learning and AI algorithms, and sizing tables provided by brands, my company MySize provides customers with hyper-accurate clothing sizes that have been proven to cut down on return rates.

We also provide BoxSize, a tool for the fulfillment side, which empowers logistics companies to more efficiently utilize their resources and strategically plan their logistics, protecting both the environment and the company’s bottom line. Our parcel measurement tool, which measures both dimensions and volume, increases delivery efficiency by helping operations teams ensure that a truck is properly packed to use each inch of available space.

Additionally, BoxSize offers features such as barcode scanning, geolocation tagging, and image capture. The results include decreasing emissions and fuel consumption, a verified chain of custody, and greater operational efficiency, leading to fewer half-packed trucks, a better real-time allocation of resources, and fewer emissions.

Getting sizing right in the battle to reduce returns has never been more important.

By Ronen Luzon, CEO of MySize

Image credits:
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