Bracketing is a trend among shoppers, especially for clothes and footwear, that threatens to eat into e-commerce profit margins

As COVID-19 goes from pandemic to endemic, we see people returning to stores and online sales declining. Almost all the studies pick up that sales metrics for traditional stores, as they showed considerable year-over-year growth, although they have not yet recovered to pre-COVID-19 levels.

However, this should not cause companies to abandon the online channel, because consumers who have adapted to shopping online will maintain these habits and we must continue to offer them customer-centric shopping experiences.

One of the problems with these customer-centric strategies is that by 2022 studies show that 60% of customers will not make an apparel or footwear purchase without guaranteed free shipping and free returns. It is important for customers to have free shipping and free returns in an e-commerce shopping experience. Dealing with returns has become a challenge even for large marketplaces like Amazon, the first e-commerce that decided to issue no-questions-asked refunds to customers.

Bracketing, the hot trend among consumers

A study by Mysize talks about the importance of returns in the fashion industry. A staggering 50% of consumers return clothing and footwear purchased online due to sizing, but in addition, 33% of respondents admitted to braketing, what is this?

Bracketing is what is known as the shopping habit of some consumers who purchase multiple items with the intention of returning some of them (especially when it comes to clothing and household items).

This practice, which strains e-commerce return policies to the limit of honesty, ends up eating into companies’ profit margins.

Which consumers do more braketing?

For men, getting the right shoe size is one of the most complicated tasks when shopping online. While they have less difficulty with clothing.

Women have more difficulties when it comes to buying underwear and shoes. In addition, 21% of women surveyed stated that their experience when shopping for clothing and shoes online had been “somewhat or extremely frustrating”.

In the big markets where they are most frustrated when shopping for clothes online are:

  1. 51% in Italy
  2. 40% in Germany
  3. 38% in France
  4. 31% in the USA
  5. 21% in the UK

29% of customers return items frequently.

29% of respondents return items occasionally, as they say they return items “often” or “very often.” According to the research, consumers are much more willing to return an item they purchased online, compared to a product purchased in the traditional store. On average, 20% of products ordered through e-commerce sites are returned, while only 9% of items purchased in brick-and-mortar stores are returned.

One of the main reasons consumers return clothing is for incorrect sizing. Respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the tools that retailers usually offer in their online channels to find the correct sizes of products.

Strategies against braketing

Some companies are already developing strategies to solve this problem, which causes large losses to retailers, as happened to Revolve, which sold $499 million in products in 2019, but in the same year spent $531 million on customer returns.

Some success stories of well-known brands are:

  • Fashion Nova, offers vouchers with the return amount and does not give cash refunds to unsatisfied customers.
  • ASOS, a UK fashion brand, only gives free refunds to UK consumers. If the consumer lives in another country, he/she is responsible for the return shipping costs.


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