To Buy Or Not To Buy: Eliminating Uncertainty

Making Online Shopping Easier

Return It

If the shoe fits, wear it. If not, return it. This old adage may have been fitting in the pre-pandemic online shopping era, known as “buy-try.” Now, as returns top the list of concerns for shoppers buying basically anything online, we decided to take a deeper dive into the current world of fit and returns for online shoppers as reflected in reviews. This insight during a time of economic disturbance is helpful as companies must rapidly adapt to fit the changing demands of customers.
At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, shopping for staples and necessities moved online and the delivery chain became almost instantly taxed. Shoppers began experiencing shipping delays. This was exacerbated by stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders being put in place. Online is now the only option.

Relieving Stress 

Simon Moore, of Innovation Bubble, a behavioral science company, advises in a recently published article in AdAge that brands should seek to remove irritants and other stresses that might turn off already anxious customers. Product reviews are backing this up. What’s stopping people from hitting “buy,” the real concern, is how big of a hassle will it be to return the shoe if it doesn’t fit?
Looking at the Channel Signal March reviews of online shoe sales across two of the largest online retailers, Amazon and Zappos, we learned that among reviews that pertain to returns the star average rating was a low 2.71 stars for Amazon and 3.37 stars for Zappos. For Amazon purchases that involved a return just 14.1% were positive (four star) reviews. Zappos was nearly 10% higher. Customers purchasing shoes on Zappos were generally happier and left a more positive product review on an item that ultimately didn’t work out for them because the return process was easier. 
Not only that, but as the volume of sales has sharply plummeted for many brands, ensuring fewer returns will help keep profit margins high. Return rates on e-commerce purchases are quoted as two to three times higher than in-store purchases. In a study conducted by the online publication, The Conversation, a 20% return rate more than doubles the cost of returns. The cost of returns triples if that rate rises to 35%.
The uncertainty in reviews about fit also suggests that if companies could adapt and create more certainty for shoppers there could be a boost in sales. The logic is simple, if customers are writing about being uncertain and taking a chance, there are people reading the reviews that are deciding against a purchase. Remember: only 10% of buyers write reviews while 82% of online shoppers read and trust reviews. 

A Fix

One potential fix could be what Quay, a company selling trendy sunglasses, presents to boost online sales. Their virtual-try-on tool allows online shoppers to scan a photo of their face, which then is loaded to all their products so you can see what each pair looks like before you hit buy. The tool eliminates uncertainty and has bolstered online sales.  This is also a popular tactic with retailers of car and truck wheels. Buyers can simply select their vehicle make, model and color and then virtually try on wheels to make sure the aesthetic is right before purchasing. 
In short, removing or decreasing uncertainty for online shoppers at these touch points, either by eliminating concern before the purchase is made with technological adaptations, or by removing concern post-purchase by making returns as hassle-free as possible, could lead to an increase in sales during the current crisis.