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Bracket shopping is a thing and you need to plan for it

Let's be honest. We've all bought something planning to return it. We aren't alone - by a long shot.

One of the retail trends that the pandemic has amplified? Bracket shopping. Bracket shopping is the practice of buying multiple versions of a product in order to try it out at home. Although I wasn’t aware of the name for it until a recent Retail Drive article, I’ve been curious about this potential trend for quite some time.

62% of consumers are bracket shopping. +29% increase over 2019 +50% increase in 3 years.

What drives this consumer behavior?

I may or may not have purchase 13 shower curtains during Quarantine in order to only keep 1. Why did I do this? Because Target and Amazon let me do it without risk due to free shipping and returns.

Bracket shopping is influenced by several factors: inability to comfortably shop in stores, trying new brands, as well as free shipping and returns. Clothing is particularly subject to bracket shopping. A Narvar survey reports that the pandemic has had unique implications for apparel bracket shopping:

41% due to weight fluctuations 31% can’t safely try products in store 21% trying new brands


Returns are inevitable - especially with holiday sales. 88% of Americans are planning to complete a holiday gift return. According to BloomReach, online traffic was up 61% YOY and revenue grew 40% YOY. When considering the entirety of the year, the return rate for eCommerce is 20% which is about 10-12% higher than brick and mortar.

source: BloomReach 2020 holiday report

According to Ware2Go, 96% of customers indicated the return policy was either very or somewhat important. The answer is not to make returns harder. Nobody wants that, especially the frontline souls who support customer service lines. eCommerce is a channel that is here to stay. To call it a trend is underestimating the digital transformation that every industry segment is facing. The question is how can retailers and brands control bracket shopping while still enticing consumers and maintaining their margins.

Better product information This means better merchandising, honest pictures, and verified customer reviews. Use customer interviews and other website analytics to understand what website visitors are looking for (and not finding). Making site improvements is not free but the payoff can be significant in both driving good revenue and decreasing returns.

Leverage 3rd party resources You can only tell a customer so much about a product. All that really matters is how it will actually work for them. Virtual reality has come a long way for helping us see what home decor will look like in our homes. Thanks Wayfair and others for this. But for apparel, there are like companies like Truefit and mysize that perhaps help us when we aren’t necessarily honest with ourselves about sizing

Enable good decision making via recommendations Use what you know about a customer to help the decision process. Brands have the potential to know nearly everything that is in our house and closet - and what size, color, and style we tend to buy. Brands know whether the floor mats are going to fit the new car you just bought online from Carvana.


Transparent policies and shipping timelines When all else fails, be honest and upfront. Gone are the days when customers willingly waited 14 days for J.Crew to package up 3 cardigans. But - tell a customer that shipping is “running slow” or set an expectation for how quickly the economy shipping really is… and customers will be far more forgiving.


Are these problems that you are trying to solve for your business? Or maybe you just like to talk about eCommerce and digital strategies?

Let’s talk.

This post can also be found on my Substack.


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