Digitisation How online shopping innovation can reduce returns

New digital tools are harnessing augmented reality, 3D and AI to help online shoppers make better decisions – and reduce returns.

(Photo: Shutterstock ID 1907170750)

Amid the recent boom in e-commerce, it can be easy to forget something important: the more people buy online, the more they return. This can have a major impact on retailers, delivery companies and the environment.

Size, fit, colour, smell, touch – seeing a product in store gives shoppers a lot more accurate information than seeing it on a screen. This means they are less likely to send it back. Return rates for physical stores are typically around 8-10%; for e-commerce sites that can be 20% or more.

To process an online return, it must be sent back, inspected and then either cleaned and repackaged or disposed of. This costs time, money and increases a product’s carbon footprint. Some low-value products can’t be resold and are thrown away. According to McKinsey, approximately 10% of returns end up in landfill.

For retailers, this is a tough balance to strike. They need to make the returns process easy for those who need to send something back, but not so easy that customers can just order what they want without any second thought.

One way to ensure online shoppers are less likely to return their purchases is to provide more detailed, accurate information before they click ‘buy’. The three tools below show how digital innovation can harness the power of augmented reality, 3D and AI to help shoppers make better purchases – and reduce returns.

Not sure whether to order the small or the medium? Fashion sizes can vary wildly from brand to brand, making online selection difficult. Munich-based start-up Presize has created a 3D scanning tool that helps match shoppers with the right products. First they enter basic data like age, gender and weight into the tool, which is integrated into a shopping platform. Then the user simply stands in front of their smartphone for a few seconds and turns around 360 degrees, enabling Presize to accurately capture body size and shape, and compare it to the products they want to buy.

A multifaceted digital platform with its roots in Hollywood visual effects. Threekit’s 3D configurator enables shoppers to view and style 3D models of what they want to buy, from furniture to jewellery to cars. Users can adjust colours, materials, sizes and layouts, and instantly view the results on screen. In addition, the augmented reality tool lets shoppers ‘see’ the customised product in the environment it was meant for: imagine placing a virtual sofa in your living room or mirror on your bedroom wall. It’s not quite a substitute for seeing it in real life, but it’s a step in the right direction.

True Fit
True Fit’s ‘Fashion Genome’ connects manufacturer design data, consumer order information and personal preference data from hundreds of millions of shoppers to deliver tailor product recommendations based on a shopper’s style and fit preferences. The more interactions a consumer has with True Fit, the more personalized and accurate their recommendations become.

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