User Experience

How to help your Customers Pick the Right Size and Reduce Order Returns – Ecommerce Size Guide

 

If you ask a growing online fashion retailer, especially a multi-brand clothing store about its biggest pains, they will tell you that ‘Order returns’ is definitely one of them. Customers order a piece of clothing, shoe etc and then they return it, not because they didn’t like it, but because it didn’t fit them. 8 out 10 returns in Fashion ecommerce are linked with size and fitting issue. Ecommerce companies waste billions of dollars when customers return their order. In Europe alone, the returns due to incorrect size cost retailers more than 8.4 Billion EUROS every year.

Why is it hard for customers to pick the right size?
Order returns are painful for both online retailers, as well as their customers. The process of returning products, especially international orders require customers to print return shipping labels and often pay for the shipment from their own pocket. Not ideal, right? If you ask your customers about how they feel about picking their size while shopping online, they will tell you how confused and uncertain they feel when placing the order.

For example, if you go to Zappos to buy shoes, you will notice that the size chart of Nike and Reebok are quite different, mainly because Nike and Reebok follow a different sizing convention, for example:

  • Reebook’s 6 is 15 cm, 7 = 17 cm, 8 = 21 cm
  • Nike’s 6 is 16 cm, 7=18 cm, and 8 = 22 cm

To make it even more complicated, it’s not just about the sizing conventions followed by different brands, there are more variables that make it even more confusing for the customer, for example:

  • Customers have different body shapes
  • They keep putting on and losing weight and thus changing their size
  • All brands follow different sizing conventions
  • Most customers don’t have sizing tape at home, let alone measuring their size
  • They have different fitting preferences depending on their personal style

You can imagine how confusing it gets for your customers when they shop online.

 



How to help your customers pick the right size and reduce order returns?

Now that you know what’s causing customers to pick wrong size and return their order, let’s look at the options you have if you want to help them pick the right fitting and size.

 

IMPORTANT SIZE AND FIT TERMINOLOGIES

1) Understand size & fit terminologies

It’s surprising how many retailers are unaware of the sizing conventions and terms, especially the new ones in the industry who have no retail background. Since they don’t understand the basics of apparel sizing, they find themselves unequipped to deal with sizing related issues on their website.

So, first things first. Let’s go over some popular size related terms before we go into the action items and strategies to help you decrease your size related order returns. Familiarize yourself with below terminologies used to mark size and fit of a piece of clothing for men and women.

SIZING TERMINOLOGIES FOR WOMEN
Let’s first look at some of the most common adjectives to explain women’s sizing.

  • Short: Short size for women as the name signifies is used for women with a shorter length; not necessarily smaller body proportions. I am sure you already know, shorters sizes are indicated as S in the size.
  • Tall: When it comes to apparel sizing, women between 5’8”-6’ ½” and men 6’1” and taller, are considered tall at least as far as apparel sizing goes. For tall sizes, torso and sleeve lengths are longer for tops. Likewise, inseams and trouser lengths are longer in bottoms.
  • Petite: Petite sizes are typically for short and dainty women. Petite clothing is proportioned for a smaller frame, with shoulder widths and sleeve lengths scaled down. As a rule of thumb, women of a height between 4’11 to 5’3 ½” fall under the petite category and look for petite-size clothing when shopping online. Petite sizes are represented with a P suffix, such as 4P (meaning size 4 petite).
  • Plus size: Plus-size clothing is for women 12-24, and XL-4XL (XL, 2XL, 3XL and 4XL). Apparels with plus size are often designated with a W as a suffix, for example, 12W to 24W. Such apparels by design are generally roomier throughout and designed for a curvy frame body type.
  • Juniors: No this size is not for kids. The term ‘juniors’ is used in product descriptions for younger women, often used for trendier teenage designs. Apparels with a junior sizing are marked by odd number sizes, usually from 1-13. Clothing for junior women sizes are designed proportionally smaller throughout and is made for slender built without many curves.
  • Misses: As the name suggests Misses or Missy is a term typically used to represent sizes of a younger adult woman. It’s common to see many brands refer to all their non-plus women’s clothing sizes as misses. What’s unique about the misses sizing, is that misses clothing is proportioned more generously in the bust and hips than junior items. Misses of Missy sizes are usually marked by even numbers, 0 to 16.
  • Women’s: Women’s, as the name suggests, is for adult women, indicating that the clothing is for body cuts and curves of a grown-up woman. Having said that many brands also use ‘women’s’ to indicate clothing with a fuller cut, often larger plus size clothing.

SIZING TERMINOLOGIES FOR MEN
Now let’s look at men’s sizing terminologies that for biological reasons are relatively simpler than women:

  • Big & Tall: ‘Big & Tall’, also known as ‘extended sizes’ is mostly used for plus-sized clothing in men. To be specific, the men’s sizes 12 and up, and XXL to 4XL (sometimes to 7XL) fall under this category. Men who wear ‘Big and Tall’ wear clothes that fit bigger men better, who are big especially in the torso, waist, and legs.
  • Husky: Husky size is mostly used for boys who have trouble fitting into traditionally-sized pants, especially around the waist and hip region. They are usually sized more generously around the hip and are longer in length. Husky size is also used for shirt sizes for boys wherein the torso generously sized-up and the shirt has long sleeves. Husky sizes are typically designated with an H, for example, 14H.

FITTING TERMINOLOGIES

We have covered the popular sizing terms. Now let’s talk about what words to use to describe ‘fitting’ of apparels.

  • Relaxed: Relaxed clothing, also known as oversized or boyfriend-style clothing for women, is clothing that hangs loosely on the body. The clothes with relaxed fitting are made deliberately oversized and are typically used in relation to tops. This fitting is mostly for button-up shirts and trousers. Relaxed fit is also popular in men’s denim with a fuller cut around the hip and leg region.
  • Slim: Slim-fit is used for clothing with a closer or tighter fit to the body. It’s used to describe fitting of a denim, pants, and shirts. Help the slimmer and petite men customers shopping at your store by marking the size as slim in the product description and sizing options.
  • Rise: The term rise is used to explain clothing with “low-rise,” “high-rise” or “mid-rise”, depending on the distance from the waist to the crotch on pants. Low-rise pants sit low on the hips, while high-rise pants sit at or above the natural waist. Please note that there are also brands out there that measure rise by going from center back of the waist, down, through the crotch, then up to the front center of the waist.


OPTIMIZE SIZE CHARTS

The size charts are one of the most crucial, yet ignored elements of users shopping experience on a website. Doesn’t matter if you have designed the most beautiful and technically advanced ecommerce website, if your size charts are not mobile responsive or don’t explain the product sizing in a way that a user can understand, unsure of the size your customers will leave the website without making purchase, and those who do place an order will order a wrong size. Retailers don’t realize that the people who visit size charts are the most serious buyers on their website. Size charts can indeed make or break your ecommerce business.

Let’s look at ways how you can improve the size charts for the customers on your website.

2) Make sure your size chart is mobile responsive
This is one of the biggest mistakes new ecommerce retailers make. Everything on their website is mobile responsive, except their size chart. They open the size chart as a pop-up and while it looks perfect on desktop, the same pop-up is hard to scroll-up & down, or left & right on mobile. So the first thing you should do with your size chart is to test it on different mobile and tablet screens and ensure that size charts are accessible on mobile.

3) Only display product specific measurements
Another mistake online retailers make, especially who have fewer categories and products is that they show the same, generic size chart on all the product pages. You’re not helping your customers shop on your website, especially on mobile if you showing them size options of tops when she is shopping tops. Only show product specific size chart.

Alternately, you can go the Anthropologie way and shows tab-seperated size guides for each category


 

4) Show product specific measurements
I have already covered how different brands follow different size conversion metrics for the same product. So, it does not help your customers to be shopping pants and getting a measurement chart with a chest or sleeve length. Likewise, if it is an upper-body product, show them measurements upper-body only. Likewise if you’re running a multi-brand store, make sure you show a brand specific sizing chart to your visitors on the product page.

5) Make sure your chart is multi-lingual
Retailers enable currency and language selection to provide a localized shopping experience to their customers, but they forget to make their sizing information in their local language. This can really hurt your sales from customers who want to buy but can’t read the size chart because they don’t know the language.

6) Show measurements in both cms and inches
You can also include common measurements, such as length, in inches or centimeters. Customers find it more convenient when they can either select the measurement unit between inches and centimeters.

Asos.com offers its customers to see the measurments in both cms & inches. 

7) Include international sizing conversions
Selling in multiple countries? In case you don’t already know, a size 6 in the U.S. can translate to a size 10 in the U.K. or Australia. By including country-specific conversions, you can help your customers checkout with more confidence.

Reformation shows size conversion to various countries in a seperate tab within size chart

 

9) Explain how you measured the size – use size guides
As a seller, your job is not only to help them select the right measurement but also know their measurement accurately. Like many people find it hard to read maps, be assured that some of your customers will find it hard to interpret a size chart, and thus will pick the wrong size even after checking the size chart. Help them by supporting the size chart with size guide, and illustrate which sizes will fit them better. Furthermore, if you offer more than one apparel type, offer a separate guide for each product.

For example, you might want to have different guides for shoes and shirts. Sounds obvious? Go and check size guides in some of the lesser known brands you know. You will know that most of these brands only have a size cart, not a size guide.


Asos uses illustration pictures to help their customers measure their size accurately.

 


 

OPTIMIZE YOUR PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS

If you just depend on size charts as the only tool to help customers pick the right size, the customer will only be able to make a direct comparison without taking into consideration parameters, such as fit, style or elasticity which will again lead them into ordering a wrong size. Moreover, many customers choose to ignore the size chart and pick a size based on the product description, and how they perceive product size from the product picture. So in this part of the essay, let’s go ways how you can use your product descriptions to explain the size and fit and help your customers to pick the right size.

10) Add sizing information and suggestions in your product description copy
Many retailers only look at product descriptions as a tool to communicate the look and feel of the apparel. Their copywriters do an excellent job of describing the product but they don’t pay attention to the fit and fall. They don’t realize that their job is not just to tell a good story and sell the product, but also to explain the size and fit using the right words and help the customer pick right size and fit.

11) Talk about the shapes in descriptions
Don’t expect all the women shopping on your website to know their size and body type. That’s why designer or manufacturer provides you with information related to body shape for the dress, shirt, pant, etc. Use this information to help your customer pick the right size as per their body shapes, such as pear, apple, rectangle, inverted triangle, or hourglass.  What looks good on an hourglass frame may look horrible on a woman who falls under pear-shaped. This is determined by the cut of the shirt or dress. Ask your Fashion copywriter to touch upon body shapes in the description.

RenttheRunway.com going the distance to explain the product size and fit in words to help its customers pick the right size. 


 

OPTIMIZE PRODUCT PICTURES

12) Mention model size
When customers look at the product pictures, they imagine themselves in the piece of clothing and your role is to help their imagination by sharing the size model is wearing along with the model’s body dimensions. This will help your customers get a good relative idea about what size will or will not fit them. You can mention the model’s size in the product pictures and model’s dimensions in the description. Having a reference for comparison to their body type makes customers more confident about their purchase.

Revolveclothing shares model’s size and measurements in the product specs area

 

13) Provide a supporting video
Ask your photographer to create 5 to 10 seconds video when he/she is taking a picture. These videos will allow your customers to have a 360-degree view of the product and how the fabric moves and falls with body movements. With these videos, your customers are more likely to pick the right fit and size.


Koovs shows supporting video with the product pictures to help customers get better idea about the size and fit


 

REVIEWS

14) Encourage your customers to talk about fitting in their product review
Most retailers only look at product reviews as a selling tool – to create trust in the customers that they are not the first to place the order. Often online retailers don’t realize that they can also use product reviews to make their old customers help the new customers pick the right product size and fit.

While asking your customers to submit a product review, ask them questions about the product fit. And then if you show the product review relative to the size they ordered, other customers will find it extremely helpful. Showing fit related review information, along with the size that customer ordered, can dramatically increase your website’s conversion rate as customers are able to hear from other customers who have similar body size and shape, and who ordered the same size variant.

15) Let your customers post photos
Additional to professionally shot product pictures on a perfect body of a model, it can be very useful for your customers to also look at the product as wore by other customers who have a more realistic and natural body shaps. Help your customers upload their own pictures wearing the clothing while submitting a product review.


 

TALK TO THEM

16) Invite them to call you

There is nothing better than talking to your customers on phone and help them pick the right size and fit. It’s an excellent opportunity to build a relationship with your actual customers, solving their problem and building a life-long relationship.

Brands like Mr. Porter invite their customers to speak with their style advisors. 

 


DESIGN A GREAT USER EXPERIENCE

Even after all the care and precautions, there will be customers will return the products due to sizing and non-sizing related issues. Here is one relieving stats though, 95% online shoppers shop again with retailers who provide a good return experience. So, the return doesn’t mean customer lost – you just need to ensure their return experience is good and they come back to buy again.


Bonobos explaining its return process using this 1-min instructional video.

 

17) Offer in-store trials and returns
If you have an offline store, you can minimize your local product returns by inviting customers to try a product by walking into your local showroom.

 


SIZE RECOMMENDATION SOFTWARES

18) Use Size recommendation tools
There are a lot of software and apps that you can use to help your customers pick the right size. Unfortunately, most of these sizing solutions don’t work that well because they ask customers to take photos, create 3D body models, share your body parameters, etc. The experience they provide isn’t very seamless either as a customer has to leave the website to get the measurement.

However, there are some intelligent and sophisticated recommendation software for e-commerce retailers.

Ami Paris uses EASYSIZE – a size recommendation tool.  After integrating your website with this ecommerce size tool, you can pre-select the right size or provide useful size tips. Everything happens automatically when the page is loaded – no customer inputs required.

EASYSIZE asks customers about their size in brands they already own. They use data of orders and returns from other online shops.

 


 

I hope the information and tips in this article help you improve the shopping experience on your store and decrease size related returns.

Don’t forget to give a shout out on Twitter @netgains_ (using the hashtag #netgains) and share this as a resource with fellow online retailers.

 

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