The return rate for shoes purchased online has been a topic of interest for both consumers and retailers alike. This metric is crucial as it provides insights into customer behavior, product quality, and the effectiveness of the retailer’s return policy.
A rough estimate often quoted for the return rate of shoes purchased online ranges between 20% and 35%. This implies that for every three to five pairs of shoes sold, one pair is returned. However, some sources suggest even higher return rates, up to 50% or more. For instance, Zappos, a renowned shoe-specialist retailer, revealed in March 2010 that on average, customers returned 35% of the items they ordered. Interestingly, the company’s best customers, who also happened to be the most profitable ones, had the highest return rates, returning 50% of their items.
High return rates are not necessarily indicative of consumer dissatisfaction. In fact, they can be part of a successful business model for e-retailers selling apparel and shoes. By offering free delivery and free returns, e-retailers essentially move the fitting room from a physical shop to the customers’ home. This strategy, known as ‘bracketing’ or ‘try before you buy’, encourages consumers to buy multiple versions of the same item and return those that aren’t suitable. According to Narvar’s 2022 State of Returns study, 63% of consumers surveyed admitted to bracketing at least some of their online purchases.
However, high return rates can pose challenges for retailers. The process of receiving returned goods back into warehouses, checking for damage or wear, and dealing with potential fraud cases can be costly and time-consuming. Moreover, the return of goods complicates accounting processes and may involve processing fees when a credit card payment is reversed.
In terms of product categories, clothing and footwear tend to have the highest return rates in e-commerce, while cosmetics and home furnishings have some of the lowest. This is largely due to the challenges associated with navigating different color or sizing guides when making online purchases of apparel.
Generally speaking, the return rate for shoes purchased online varies widely, but it is generally higher than that of brick-and-mortar stores. While high return rates can be a sign of a successful business model, they also present logistical and financial challenges for retailers. Therefore, understanding and managing return rates effectively is crucial for the profitability and sustainability of online shoe retailers.