How the need for social media fashion kudos is costing our online brands
The pressures of social media and fashion, being on-trend and not wearing the same outfit twice have fuelled a what’s been coined “snap and send back culture.”
In its essence, this phenomenon is nothing new. We’ve all got a mate who won't be seen in the same outfit twice. Maybe every once in a while they’ll leave the tag inside their new jacket whilst wearing it “just in case” they want to return it later.
But this is different. This is on a whole other level. This is ordering half a wardrobe of items online with the sole intention of sending absolutely everything back—after a social media fashion photoshoot for your feed of course!
Surprisingly, research by Barclaycard found that shoppers aged 35-45 who are the worst offenders and with try before you buy options such as Klarna becoming increasingly available, you can now get your virtual fantasy wardrobe without spending a penny!
But seriously, there’s no harm, right…?
Wrong. It's estimated that every year online returns costs UK business £20bn.
It’s easy to forget that once a retailer receives an unwanted item, they have to inspect it, add it back into the inventory, repackage and refund the original shopper, and all of these processes have people and costs attached. By the time an item is ready for sale again, the nature of fast fashion often means the item will have to go on sale or be classed as out of season stock—which means further losses for retailers.
It's hard to think of a retailer currently that demands a handling fee (usually around 5-10% of the value of goods) for making a return, but it begs the question—as online returns increase, will free returns to remain sustainable? Something will have to give.
And it's not just retailers that have to pay the price for items returned. The number of times I’ve ordered a top only to find it covered in makeup, a sports bra that smelled like someone had worn it to perform a military fitness test in 30-degree heat—oh and I found half a pack of chewing gum in a coat pocket once. That was nice.
Recently, a Pretty Little Thing shopper also got a nasty surprise when she ordered a jumpsuit to wear on a night out. Yes, clearly there is also an issue with quality control, but the fact remains people are sending these items back as if they were new.
What are retailers doing?
ASOS is changing its return policy and has clocked all the YouTubers doing hauls each week and returning everything pic.twitter.com/30Icwm7gnl
— Meg (@MegVClark) April 4, 2019
Last month ASOS emailed customers informing of their new returns policy. Offenders take note:
“Where we suspect someone is actually wearing their purchases and then returning them or ordering and returning loads – way, waaay more than even the most loyal ASOS customer would order – then we might have to deactivate the account and any associated accounts.”
As you can imagine, the news didn't go down well with some customers who took to Twitter to voice their panic and frustrations:
Returns aren’t illegal, they’re allowed. How are we supposed to know if an item is going to fit or look good on us before trying it on? They think we do it for fun? I’m happy to never order from them again!
— Carli Kitchell (@CarliSmith1) April 12, 2019
#ASOS prevents refunds by banning accounts with a Vague "higher than average returns". What quantifiable figure is that? Not that it matters, customers can. #longdistancesellingregulations anyone? I'll just leave this here:https://t.co/r62T83eIRE#ASOSdeactivated #ASOSreturns pic.twitter.com/grZuo6QS2O
— Jordan Murphy (@MrJordanMurphy) April 12, 2019
— Miss. P, BSc, MA. (@SiobhanParker11) April 13, 2019
I’ve got ASOS returns sitting here and I’m genuinely scared to send them back incase I get banned
— Emma Auld (@emmaxauld) April 18, 2019
ASOS also told Cosmopolitan UK they would be checking up and monitoring customers social media activity to spot—but only where they suspect fraud.
On a brighter note, they have extended the returns period to 45 days.