Retail

The Rise Of Returnable Insta-Fashions

Instagram has created a new trend among the middle-aged hoping to be hip: purchasing new clothes online, snapping a shot in them and then sending them back to the company from which they were purchased.

The photos are for posting in the Instagram “outfit of the day,” and it is becoming an increasingly common practice for consumers. According to research from Barclaycard, almost 10 percent of U.K. shoppers have purchased clothing online for a social media shot, only to turn around and rapidly return it once the shot is posted.

The demographic most likely to participate? Men and women aged 35 to 44. In that age tier, about 17 percent of shoppers admit they have shopped for the #OOTD thrill – a hashtag that links, at the time of writing, to 199,466,186 posts on Instagram.

One might assume it is the ladies who are most into the Insta-fashion (Insta-return) way of life – but as it turns out, the gentlemen are most inclined to shop, snap and return. The official explanation given for that rather unexpected observation is that men are more socially self-conscious than women. A full 10 percent admit they have bought an outfit or accessory and then returned it after photographing themselves in it once.

And yes, men have, on the whole, become more fashion-conscious. About 10 percent also said they would be embarrassed to be seen twice in the same outfit, whereas only 7 percent of women felt that way.

And, as it turns out, this variation of fashion is not totally out-of-step with how retailers are presenting themselves to consumer these days, as “try before you buy” has become increasingly popular. As online retailers have made it easier for customers to try on their clothes before making a final commitment, consumers have gotten increasingly comfortable taking them up on that offer.

And now, it seems, they are taking photo mementos of all those times they tried. A variation, perhaps, of the old scheme where someone buys an expensive fashion item for an event, keeps the tag on while wearing it and then returns it when the event is over. This behavior – among British shoppers, anyway – is more common, and is something many more consumers are comfortable doing.

And they sometimes keep the clothes – especially the gentlemen. According to Barclaycard, men spent an average of £114 on clothes and shoes a month, adding up to £300 more per person a year than their female counterparts.

“It’s interesting to see the social media trend further fueling the returns culture. We know from our research that returns are having a big impact on retailers, with a huge figure of £7bn a year in sales that they potentially can’t recognize,” said George Allardice, head of strategy at Barclaycard Payment Solutions. “Retailers are adopting new processes to make returns easier, as they know how important this is to customers.”

Allardice also noted that better pictures online will give consumers a clearer picture of what they are buying.

“But to ensure shoppers are getting more wear out of their clothes – for posting on social media or for those real-life moments – retailers could think about introducing more varied photography and video content to their websites. By showing how to style items for different looks and how they will appear when worn, they could reduce the number of shoppers ‘snapping and sending back,’” he said.

Will it make consumers any more likely to keep what they purchase online, instead of just using it to briefly show off on Instagram? For some, possibly. But for those committed to not wearing the same outfit of the day twice?

We suspect a lot of trying – with a lot less buying – is in the immediate future.

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