Small, medium, and large: These sizes can vary widely when it comes to actual fit, and that can be a significant challenge if you sell clothing.
The problem is that whether you sell apparel with more generic or even numerical sizes (2,4,6, or 38 waist, etc.), none of them are completely standardized. Any savvy shopper will tell you that a size 6 dress in one store could fit very differently from a size 6 dress found at a competing shop. This is particularly a problem for those retailers who sell exclusively online, as their customers don’t have the opportunity to try on items in a physical store.
But retailers can boost customer confidence, increase sales, and reduce returns by creating a comprehensive size chart — because there's nothing more frustrating for a consumer than simply hoping something will fit.
“When shoppers have to guess, one of two things happens: They either don't buy, or they buy two or three sizes and return the ones that don't fit,” says Morgan Linton, co-founder of Fashion Metric, a company that offers sizing tools for apparel retailers.
In fact, the average online apparel retailer experiences a return rate of 28%, and 80% of these returns are due to fit issues, she added.
Sizing is frequently the No. 1 reason shoppers cite in their decision to shop in-store versus online, says Dan Weinsoft, ecommerce conversion strategist for conversion optimization advisory firm The Good. In-store retailers have the advantage of “trial-ability” and “observe-ability” simply by having a physical product to touch and try on, he says.
Without these factors, ecommerce merchants and brick-and-mortar retailers with an online presence have to get creative when explaining how your apparel fits without overwhelming or confusing the customer.
Weinsoft says one online retailer that does a good job with sizing is Columbia: “Columbia emphasizes the size and fit guide high on their product detail page,” he says. “They also designed a prominent on-page size and fit guide with clear, common measurements and a guide to how to measure yourself for the best fit. They've done everything but send a tailor out to their customers' homes to take measurements.”
Photo credit: Columbia
Having a comprehensive size chart can also help protect you as a merchant, particularly if you offer custom-made products, says Benjamin Surman, founding director of brand management consultants Firm Eight-Six.
A sizing guide together with a solid Terms of Service (ToS) can help back you up when a customer wants to return a product.
Surman suggests including sizes from a variety of regions like men’s shoe retailer Mark Chris does on its product pages. Also clearly state on the product pages whether or not you accept returns if the item is a custom or special order. Return policies should be included on the ToS page, and it’s ideal for merchants to consult an attorney when writing one, says Surman.
“It is critical to be as precise and descriptive as possible,” he says. “One example might be, ‘Please try shoes on a clean, carpeted area. We will not accept returns of products with scuffed, marked, or worn soles.’ Many customers have learned to read the ToS and other return policies before purchasing items; however, your part as a vendor needs to be clear and concise so that it cannot be disputed.”
Protect yourself and your customer by making sure your terms are read. “Every checkout form needs to have a checkbox unchecked by default that states the customer has read the ToS and any other policy before checking out,” Surman says. “A pop-up can be utilized for an alert, however, the proof would be the click-to-acknowledge action.”
So, while it may be annoying for customers to have to click the box acknowledging that they’ve read and agree to your ToS, it’s a vital way for retailers to ensure they have clear access to their return policy and encourage them to read it in order to protect themselves.
Whether you’re creating a sizing chart from scratch or evaluating the quality of your existing guide, here are five things merchants need to know to move forward with creating an effective guide for customers:
Make Sure Your Sizes are Easily Understood
Customers need perspective and scale when shopping online, says Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution, a fulfillment provider for ecommerce businesses. “They’re unsure how clothes will fit the first time, and having a reference for comparison to their body type will ensure they can feel confident in their purchase,” she says.
If your clothing comes in small, medium, and large, for example, provide comparable numerical sizes, such as sizes 8 to 10 for medium. You can also include common measurements, such as length, in inches or centimeters. Also know that “one size fits all” isn’t true; it’s more likely “one size fits most.” Help sales by spelling out which sizes this piece will fit. If you offer more than one type of apparel, offer a guide for each product type (i.e. a chart for dress shirt sizes as well as a shoe size chart).
And if you sell clothing for women, men, and children, make sure you create separate sizing guides for each.
Give Information That Doesn’t Require Measurements
Most shoppers don't know their body measurements offhand, so make sure your sizing guide doesn’t rely solely on that information, says Linton.
“Very few people have a measuring tape at home, and if they do, the chances they will measure themselves is very low,” she notes. “While a size guide is important, it is critical that shoppers can determine their size without requiring a measuring tape.”
Fashion Metric, Linton’s company, offers software that uses an algorithm to predict a customer’s size by analyzing their height, weight, age, and shoe size. You could include height and weight information on your sizing chart, as well as information about the cut of the item, such as fitted or loose, so customers know how the item is intended to fit so they can adjust the size they order for their personal comfort.
An example is Snapsuits, a men’s formalwear retailer that closely estimates their customers’ custom suit size based on a few key indicators, including height, weight, age, waist size for pants, and shoe size.
Photo credit: Snapsuits
Place Sizing Information Prominently Within Your Product Copy
If a customer is interested in a product, don’t make them search your site for the sizing guide. The best way to share sizing information is to include it within the product copy, or have a link that creates a pop-up on the screen or takes you directly to the product sizing guide, says Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail, a retail sales strategist.
“[Information] should be housed on the respective product pages so as to avoid leaving the product page and losing the sale,” she says.
Add a Sizing Element to Customer Reviews
Customers who’ve purchased a piece of clothing can help you close more sales if they’re allowed to share their experience through a customer review — especially when it comes to fit.
For example, ModCloth offers a customer rating where reviewers rate products as running small, large or just right. The merchant also allows shoppers to upload photos of themselves wearing that specific item to publish next to their review in order to give other customers an idea of how a clothing fits on an average person versus a mannequin or a model.
Photo credit: ModCloth
These types of thorough reviews can help your customers make the decision to purchase the item by boosting their confidence in the sizing.
Be Willing to Accept Returns
Although your return policy is a different part of the shopping experience, it will affect how customers feel about finding the right size and making a purchase, says Haggerty. Having a flexible and clear return policy can increase customer confidence that even if they order a product that doesn’t fit quite right, they’ll be able to seamlessly get the correct size or their money back.
“Make shipping and returns effortless so that customers know even if they do get the wrong size, they can easily exchange for the right one,” she says.
Accepting in-store returns and exchanges is also a fantastic way to keep consumers confident that they’ll end up with the right size at the end of the day. That means making it easy for a customers who purchase online to return and exchange their item in your brick-and-mortar store. This is an enticing option, as customers may want an immediate refund (versus waiting for returns to be delivered by mail) or they may want to ensure they can exchange an item for the correct size. Either way, facilitating shoppers by enabling this option can increase consumer confidence that they’ll eventually get the right size for them — even if it doesn’t work out with the first order.
The Bottom Line
These five easy steps create a triple win for you and your customers: Your customer will be happy with his or her purchase, you’ll be happy with a reduced rate of return, and you’ll increase the customer lifetime value with the potential of turning them into a happy, loyal shopper.
About The Author
Stephanie Vozza spends her days helping small businesses focus on productivity. Her work has appeared in Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and Success magazines.