How Product Sizing can make or break a brand in China

How Product Sizing can make or break a brand in China

"Wrong size or color" is the top reason given for returns on Tmall

For a fashion brand, controlling the return rate is at the core of its success. This is because all stores on Tmall must oblige with the 7-day right-of-return at no cost for all customers. They treat the living room as the new showroom. Many consumers shop for clothes with the full intention of returning most or all of what they order.

Gross return rates can often reach 30-40%. In bad cases they can go to 60% depending on the price range. When sizing is the top reason given for returns, it is a top priority for store operators to handle it every way they can.

In one extreme case, we saw a single customer purchase over 50,000 RMB worth of product on our client’s Tmall flagship and even after much hand holding, gifting & personal service… RETURNED it a day after receiving the packages! When asked “Why?” he simply replied, “I just wanted to try the products on.” (NOTE: he kept the free gifts.)

In the West, serial product returners like this are known as “bracketers” and are apparently the most loyal customers you can have. In China, that’s not necessarily the case. The potential damage to premium brands who are exposed to these serial product “Testers” is remarkable in China. They feel NO OBLIGATION to return the favor and will likely move on to another merchant who will do the same for them at a lower price.

How the issue can be solved

Experienced stores do everything to communicate sizing to consumers

Trade partners can help ensure sizes are communicated transparently to consumers. Truthfully, you can never do too much in this area. But these directives must be correctly applied before a brand launches in the market. We do this as part of onboarding. We test product sizes and materials claims with our operations team and have clients send samples of their full range to measure fit. Also, we always have a sizing chart that matches Western sizes to Asian equivalents. Typically, an S from Italy is an M. Or an American M is often an XL.

Then, it’s about “over-publishing” your data

Custom sizing charts are far from enough. Everything must be done so that consumers understand your fit as much as possible online.

We have customer service (CS) agents filling the role of assistant shoppers and advisers that make sure people understand what they are buying. These CS agents are always standing by, ready to respond within seconds, not hours like it is in the West.

Livestreaming also plays a pivotal role in solving this issue. We do a lot of in-house livestreaming since we want return rates to be as low as possible. The goal is to show as many dimensions of fit as we can and lower returns. Brands are highly incentivized to do this.

We try to catch as many people making mistakes as possible before they put goods into the cart. There’s no overkill in this area, just like how you can’t have “too many images” in your product page.

Brands also need to ensure production can keep up with China's demand for smaller sizes

We’ve seen enough cases where the brand acknowledges that there’s a high demand for XS in China too little too late. The problem is that XS is often produced in lower quantities in the West and changing production plans is difficult and takes time.

If it can’t be resolved, it can only lead to lost revenue. In severe cases, it can damage a store’s reputation in the eyes of the platform if such production issues arise during key Tmall promotional events.

But when handled properly, correct sizing increases loyalty

This is why sizing can really make or break a brand in China, especially if they’re a luxury brand.