12% of consumers have made a return as it ‘looks different’ to the picture

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New research commissioned by Royal Mail into consumers’ returns habits for online shopping found that 12% of online shoppers have returned an internet purchase because they look different to the pictures they saw online.

White and Gold DressThe study suggests that UK shoppers may fall victim to the widely reported “that dress” syndrome where different people saw online photos of the same item of clothing in different colours. This mismatch between perceptions is in part responsible for online returns, as the bedroom increasingly becomes the new changing room for many consumers choosing to try on clothes in the comfort of their own home.

The research also found that 20% of those who returned an item purchased online over a six month period did so because the quality was not what they expected. However, the main reason for returning an online purchase was the “fit”, with 36% of consumers interviewed claiming to have sent an item back because it didn’t fit.

It also emerged that consumers were very quick to make up their mind once the item arrived. The study found that half of those returning an item bought online did so within three days of receiving the item.

Patrick Fagan, Consumer Psychologist and Lecturer, London College of Fashion said: “That dress and more recently the jacket, showed us just how varied human colour perception can be especially when clothes are viewed online. It may well be that many online shoppers see the items they order completely differently once they arrive and suddenly realise that they have made a mistake. In addition, more and more consumers are looking to try on clothes in the comfort of their own home, where they are in control of the lighting and can team them up with their own accessories to get a better idea of how suitable the item is.”

Last year, Royal Mail launched a new Returns Portal, to help online retailers better manage customer returns by giving them full visibility of items as they make their way back to warehouses and stores. The portal captures information on the specific items being returned, the customer making the return and the reason for the return, therefore improving stock management.

Nick Landon, Managing Director, Royal Mail Parcels said: “The ease of returning an item is a key part of a customer’s overall online shopping experience. We know from talking to online shoppers that a large number of people read the returns policy before deciding where to buy. We have pulled out all the stops to be able to offer a solution through our Returns Portal and our Tracked Returns products that meets both the retailer’s and consumers’ needs”.

Whilst ‘The Dress’ and ‘The Jacket’ really did confuse people online, even well photographed colours display differently on different screens. Even the same photo on my mobile is totally different colours to that on my laptop. How do you describe a colour and reduce returns? We’d love to hear your tips.

8 Responses

  1. This is a classic problem. As you say, every device is different for the colour it shows. You don’t mention that also some buyers are straight colourblind. I’ve had this a couple of times, but you can’t suggest to a customer they should get their eyesight checked. The couple of time I’ve had this the buyer hasn’t been able to see green and thought the item was a completely different colour. I even state the colour in the listing..

    There is also “it is smaller than it looks in the picture”. Buyers don’t understand that no matter how big an item is a photo is a set size, so everything looks the same size. You can’t perceive size from a photo. I state both scale and size in every listing, but buyers simply don’t read this before buying.

  2. Sold sine 6″ nails and the buyer wanted a refund because they were smaller in the picture he even measured the picture of the nails on his computer screen and expected 2in nails because that’s the size on his screen.

    The title with 6 inch did not matter they were not as described and eBay backed him up

  3. “Mini” ceiling light – sizes specified exactly – negative & case opened for being “a bit small” – full size is available but ordered mini – ebay backed up negative – defects not removed, we paid postage

    negative left for “white was out of stock so i ordered brown. i dont like brown”. ebay agreed. we paid postage, negative not removed.

    several negatives for “this wood effect has a knot on it”, yes it’s wood effect – the picture shows the knots, they’re supposed to be there.
    ebay agreed, negatives stand, we pay return postage.

    several negatives for “this walnut doesnt exactly match a different walnut item i bought 13 years ago in a different country”. or such like.

    so what can you do to protect yourself on ebay? sell on amazon instead, where its more or less fair.

  4. 200 ml bottle of oil.

    “Much smaller than I thought it would be”

    We’re really sorry 200 ml is 200 ml.

  5. Watch not working BROKEN WITH DAMAGE sold as found for parts!

    ebay refunds , we pay return postage ,plus negative, plus defect, plus handling charge & customs charges

  6. With examples like this it explains why users have lost all trust in eBay doing the right thing even when its so obvious that the buyer is in the wrong eBay don’t stand behind the seller they still back the buyer then punish the seller for the buyers stupidity.

    Anyway on a good note the 50k listing offer is doing the rounds again starts on the 16th for 7 days.


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