Customer reviews are the number one method considered to be most effective by consumers in reducing online returns, but some emerging product display elements have potential, according to Narvar’s fifth annual report, “The State of Returns: Finding What Fits.”

Asked what tools helped prevent them from making a return when purchasing online, the survey of just over 1,000 adults found:

  • Reviews from other customers, 83 percent;
  • Sizing charts or measurements, 77 percent;
  • Product photos and description on the retailer’s site, 73 percent;
  • View on models of different shapes and sizes, 66 percent;
  • Suggested sizes based on other brands I wear, 64 percent;
  • Augmented reality (AR) to visualize on me or in my home, 58 percent.

None of the tools are proving to be the silver bullet.

Fit, size or color issues remain the biggest driver of returns, accounting for 42 percent in 2021. Relatedly, 13 percent of returns were traced to inaccurate product details.

Shoppers overwhelmingly rely on more traditional resources that tend to reduce returns: 88 percent use photos, descriptions, reviews and sizing guides. Yet the effectiveness of these methods seem mixed because accuracy often falls short.

Of the 42 percent of shoppers whose last return was due to fit issues, 88 percent did so despite using at least one of the return-prevention tools listed above to support their purchase.

Among the newer methods, 27 percent of respondents often use tools enabling viewing items on a variety of models. Asos, Aerie and Lululemon are among the few retailers showcasing the same items on models online across different heights, sizes and shapes.

Only 11 percent in the survey “often” use tools that suggest size based on other brands. Last fall, Keen said an AI-driven online tool that uses surveys and past purchases and returns to predict shoe sizes reduced fit- and size-related call volume by 50 percent.

Only seven percent of survey respondents “often” use augmented reality (AR) technologies. Although AR has been used to trial make-up on faces and furniture in homes, it’s still rarely used for online’s two biggest return categories: apparel and footwear. One recent application, Chewy’s “Fur-tual Boutique,” gave pet owners a chance to virtually try-on their pet’s Halloween costume.


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