Online fashion consumer confidence gap persists - study

Some 77% of women choose not to purchase clothing online because they are unsure of what size to buy, while half purposely avoid certain retailers because the fit and sizing of their clothes is so unpredictable.

These are key findings from a new study of 2,000 shoppers, who were polled as part of tech company True Fit’s ‘Fashion Derailed’ report. The research also estimated that Brits will amass £32,951 worth of unworn clothing in their wardrobes over their lifetime, primarily due to difficulties in choosing the right size when shopping online.

Mintel data indicates that British women will spend £29.4 billion on clothing this year, but 45% of female shoppers in the UK admit to having bought something online that they have never worn and 44% acknowledge they have bought an item that has only been worn once.

Lars Rabe, a business leader and fashion expert at True Fit, said there are multiple problems arising from this scenario – in terms of customer satisfaction and retail business processes.

“There is so much disparity in retailers’ sizing – with consumers’ clothing fluctuating several dress sizes depending on where they shop, for example – it is leaving many shoppers confused and frustrated when shopping for fashion online,” he noted.

“And it’s not just bad for consumer confidence, it’s also bad for the retailers themselves. Not only might they lose out on sales and erode customer loyalty, but they may also end up bearing the cost of fulfilling redundant items and orders.”

The study suggested the average Brit admits they only wear three-quarters of the clothing in their wardrobes while online jeans top the list for both men and women as the trickiest fashion item to buy online. Trousers, boots, dresses, and heels complete the top five list of fashion items that prove most difficult to buy online.

Romney Evans, chief product and marketing officer at True Fit, remarked: “The fact that half of the female consumers we polled avoid certain retailers due to inconsistencies in style, fit, and sizing is a clear indication of the confidence gap consumers face when shopping for fashion online. 

“If retailers make recommendations for customers based on what they believe their average consumer would prefer, they are making that customer conform to an imaginary and inaccurate concept. This is where sophisticated artificial intelligence technology can help.”

He added: “This means making recommendations for that individual customer, not for people similar to them.”

Meanwhile another study, released this month by global returns management platform ReBOUND, found that the UK retail sector will experience returns worth £2.4 billion between Black Friday and Christmas Day, causing significant margin erosion.

It also suggested the high rate of returns will continue over the peak trading and into January, which reportedly has 85% more returns than the average month of the year.