Help Prevent Returns on Fashion Webshops

Recent research by the NOS shows that on average, Dutch people return approximately 15% of the parcels ordered online. However, this percentage varies greatly between the different sectors. For example, it is estimated that approximately 10% of sporting goods and 15% of electronics are returned. However, the vast majority of returns arise from ordered clothing.


In the fashion industry, at least 30-40% of purchased products are returned to the seller. This percentage is reportedly around 50% or higher at the two largest fashion web shops in the Netherlands, Zalando and Wehkamp.

All those returned garments have a big impact. For example, the aforementioned NOS study shows that each return is estimated to cost the webshop around €12.50. A lot of work also has to be done to make a garment salable again, the vans that transport returns contribute to CO₂ emissions, and some of the returned clothing is no longer suitable for sale.

Reducing returns may be just as effective for an e-commerce fashion retailer as improving the conversion rate. Yet much less attention is currently being paid to reducing returns.


Shopify data shows that around 72% of all fashion returns are returned due to consumer preferences (such as size, fit, style, etc.). Certain features on a webshop are known to play a positive role in providing additional information about these preferences. This includes features such as product reviews, size charts, and product photos. The assumption here is that when visitors have better information about how well a particular item of clothing meets their preferences, they are less likely to return it. The bonus for the retailer is that providing better information about these preferences may also contribute to an increased conversion rate.

To get a good idea of the extent to which web shops in the Netherlands use these features, 100 Dutch-language fashion web shops were examined. The product pages of these web shops were manually analyzed one by one for the presence of various features related to the aforementioned size, fit, and style. A total of 25 aspects were examined, which were divided into five groups (reviews, photos, size, features, and other).

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First of all, the total scores that the web shops have achieved are examined. The scores per group are then discussed. In addition to zooming in on a specific feature, examples of web shops that score high within that group are also discussed.

Total scores

The web shops that perform best are those of ASOS and Adidas, both with a score of 19/25 points. What is striking is how the product pages of ASOS and Adidas do not look busier at all than those of companies that have achieved a lower score. Also, some of the features that give these parties high scores (such as an extensive reviews department) are often already built into the webshop software. As a result, 'adding' these features will probably entail relatively few development costs.


Research cited in Alec Minnema's dissertation shows that reviews have a positive effect on the purchasing decision. The same article also shows that showing reviews can contribute to reducing the number of returns for that product. It is important that the reviews provide a realistic picture of the product. For example, if the reviews give an overly positive image of the product, this will lead to more orders, but also to more returns (because the product cannot live up to the high expectations from the reviews). A higher number of reviews also appears to make a positive contribution to both a higher conversion rate and a lower return rate.

Product reviews

However, the current analysis shows that only 24% of the analyzed web shops show reviews for the products. In many cases, this unfortunately also involves a handful of reviews spread across the various products. More advanced features such as being able to filter reviews or adding a photo to a review are used by a total of 15% of the analyzed web shops.


A small number of web shops (13%) also offer reviewers the opportunity to assess properties such as the fit, length or quality of the garment in addition to a written review. Consider assessments such as 'too wide', 'perfect', or 'too tight'. Graphical representations of those properties can then be shown based on the averages of those assessments. Based on this, visitors can then get a better idea of how a particular garment fits. Examples of web shops that use this feature well are: Shein, Bon Prix, and Hunkemöller.


In physical stores, consumers can view a garment in detail. This way they can get a good idea of properties such as the color, the fabric, details such as buttons, and also see in the mirror how comfortable they think the garment fits. Online, this role is largely fulfilled by photos of the garments.

Product foto's

Features that help approximate the offline experience are therefore used by the vast majority of web shops. For example, 93% offer the option to zoom in on photos, 96% show the garments with multiple photos, and 82% use a model to show the garments 'in context'. A close-up of the fabric, on the other hand, is only used by 47%, while this seems a relatively easy feature to add.

Body shape

Women have different body shapes that can be roughly divided into types. For example, figures from Omni show that approximately 46% of women have a 'rectangle' body shape. That body shape is characterized by a waist that is less than 23 cm smaller than the hips or bust. Other body shapes include the 'pear', 'apple', and 'diamond'. All these body shapes added up - except one - characterize approximately 92% of all women. Yet almost all online shops aimed at adult women use only one model per garment and this model almost always has an 'hourglass' body shape. This is a body shape that only about 8% of women have, according to Omni. As a result, roughly 92% of female visitors cannot view photos of how a particular item of clothing looks on someone with their body shape.


Based on the aforementioned data from Shopify, size is responsible for more than half of returned garments. It is therefore very important to give visitors the best possible idea of the size of a garment. In addition to reviews and photos, this can be done in various other ways.

Product maten

For example, 82% of online shops mention a fit such as 'regular fit' or 'slim fit' on their product pages and 75% use a size chart. Unfortunately, such size charts are not always reliable, partly due to inconsistent sizing per brand and country. About 20% of web shops therefore choose to provide size advice based on their own measurements that are entered by the visitor in a calculation tool. Within such tools, algorithms then determine which size of the garment is likely to be most suitable for that person.


As mentioned earlier, almost all web shops use one model per garment. To get an idea of how the person visiting the product page relates to the model, it is important to know what the measurements (height, bust, waist, hips) of this model are. Strangely enough, however, only 44% of online stores show model sizes on the product page. Often this only concerns the height of the model and the size he or she wears. An online store that uses this feature well is, for example, that of Adidas.


In offline stores, visitors can interact with garments in various ways. This way they can view the color in different types of light and see how an item looks on their skin color. It is also possible, for example, to feel the fabric or smell what the mix of materials used smells like. It can of course be difficult to convey some of these characteristics online, but in many cases this is certainly not impossible.

Product duurzaamheid

For example, 91% of web shops show both a visual and a textual description of the colors of the garment. 95% also show what materials the product is made of and 94% of the web shops describe properties such as fit, details and length.


A feature that is still found in only a small percentage (11%) of web shops is sustainability. The suspicion is that in many cases this is because the garments themselves are often made of non-sustainable materials such as polyester and elastane. What is striking is that brands that do work with more sustainable materials for part of their product range often clearly indicate this on the website. A good example here is G-Star RAW.


This group includes some aspects that are difficult to group. For example, we looked at whether the webshop clearly displays the returns policy on every product page (74%) and whether similar alternative clothing items are shown (78%).

Product video's


In an era where YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, you would expect that many fashion online stores also show videos of their products. In this way, visitors could see the garments 'in motion' and thus possibly get a better idea of the product. However, currently only 5% of the web shops surveyed appear to add videos to product pages with any consistency. Good examples of this are: Superdry and Expresso.


Dutch people are ordering more and more clothing online and send a large part of it back to the seller. These returns have a negative impact on, among other things, the webshop's profit figures and the environment. This article therefore described a number of features that web shops are currently using in an attempt to reduce the number of returns. All in all, most web shops score reasonably well, but there is still more than enough room for improvement in all web shops. The findings and recommendations may therefore inspire web shops to experiment with some of the features described that they do not yet use themselves.

About the author

Theo van der Zee (MSc, Psychology) has been building and optimizing websites and web shops for more than 20 years. As a freelance conversion specialist, he helps companies to improve their websites based on research and experiments.

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