If you’re an apparel brand, you’ve probably realized that customers don’t always get it right on the first try.

Many apparel brands find that even in high sales periods, like the holiday season, high rates of customer returns can slow their business’s growth. In fact, a 2019 study by consulting firm McKinsey found that apparel had an ecommerce return rate of 25%, as opposed to the 20% return rate for ecommerce overall. This figure can be especially challenging if you’re a smaller clothing brand, where managing returns can take valuable time and energy away from your business.

While some returns are inevitable in the apparel business, there are a variety of steps clothing brands can take to lower their return rate and improve their customer experience. After all, lower return rates are a sign of more satisfied customers, and mean your business can spend less time dealing with returns, and more on delivering your products. 

Try out these tactics for delivering a better customer experience and lowering your return rate. 

1. “Real fit” sizing guides

One of the most common reasons for apparel returns in ecommerce is sizing issues – 77% of shoppers say that they have returned an online clothing purchase due to poor fit. The issue is further compounded with “multi-size purchases” – that is, customers who buy an item of clothing online in several sizes, intending to try them on at home and return those that don’t fit.

To make it easier for your customers to find the right size before they buy, consider adding a “real fit” sizing guide to your products. “Real fit” guides or tables will show the measurements (height, waist, bust, shoulders, etc.) that correspond to the clothing sizes offered by your brand. This allows customers to use their personal measurements to find the size that’s best for them, without the guesswork.

2. Size-inclusive modeling

In addition to issues with fit and comfort, many shoppers find that clothing can look very different on different-sized bodies. This can pose a problem for brands that only use models who wear one size, or a very narrow range of sizes. Customers who order pieces in sizes outside the range being modeled may be dissatisfied with the look of their size, leading to a return.

To avoid buyer dissatisfaction, look for opportunities to adopt a size-inclusive modeling strategy, showcasing the same item on several models and including their size and measurements in the image description. By showing how your clothing looks on a wide range of sizes and shapes, customers will be able to get a better impression of how it will look on them.

3. Honest and thorough product photographs

Whether or not a purchase will “look like the pictures” is a common concern for online shoppers. With this in mind, it’s important for clothing brands to take photos that are not only honest representations of the garments, but show them from all angles and perspectives. This means photos that show the front and back of a piece of clothing, in clear lighting, on a model or mannequin.

While photos taken in interesting settings with dramatic lighting can be appealing on a web page, if you choose to use them, you should also include more direct photos to give customers an accurate view of what the clothing looks like – so customers won’t be surprised by what they receive and demand a refund. 

4. Incentivizing high-information customer reviews

Customer reviews are helpful for any brand trying to make their name in the world of ecommerce, but especially for apparel. In addition to classic “1-5 star” ratings, brands can boost their reputation and learn from their customers by incentivizing thoughtful, high-information customer reviews.

This can mean adding multiple categories to a rating system, such as customer size, how well the clothing fit, and how they liked the material quality of the item. Setting up a system of text-based reviews, rather than a “star” system can also be a useful way to get customers’ honest and useful feedback. 

A high-information reviewing policy can also mean making it easy for customers to upload photos of the clothing once they’ve received it, and encouraging User-Generated Content, or UGC. UGC includes not only posting reviews and photographs on your company website, but also tagging your brand in social media posts on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. 

If your brand has a social media team, they can be instrumental in encouraging UGC through post and comments, keeping up with trends, and posting social media “challenges”, as well as promoting positive content from your customers. High-information reviews and UGC can be a great way to give potential customers a sense of how others have enjoyed your products.

5. Turning returns into exchanges

Of course, even after implementing these strategies, any clothing brand will face some customer returns. Even then, a return doesn’t have to mean the loss of a customer or dissatisfaction with your brand.

One way to keep your customers happy and your business thriving is to turn returns into exchanges. When a customer returns a piece of clothing because of a sizing issue, or the color isn’t to their liking, that doesn’t mean they no longer want an item of your clothing – only that the piece they bought wasn’t quite right.

Using Loop’s automated returns and exchanges system, customers who choose exchanges will be directed to the product they want with a one-click exchange, making the exchange process quick and easy. Automated exchanges save your staff time and money, while giving your customers the product they want, leaving them more likely to leave positive reviews, refer friends, and shop with you again.

Want to learn more about how Loop can help you turn returns into exchanges and retain more revenue? Check out a demo.