Since the dawn of ecommerce, clothing and fashion brands have been losing sales to one simple but meaningful question — “But how will it look on me?”
True, all online stores suffer from their shoppers not being able to see, touch, or interact with their products in person, but none more-so than fashion retailers. How it fits, proportions, the feeling of the fabric, etc., all add too much uncertainty to online clothes shopping, not to mention confusing sizing systems that vary store to store. That’s probably why the return rate on clothing is so high.
But Amazon thinks it’s finally found the solution. Their new Prime Wardrobe, which launched out of beta on June 20, takes the try-before-you-buy model of ecommerce and adds that classic Amazon convenience. But what exactly is it, how does it work, and what does it mean for you as a seller? Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Amazon Prime Wardrobe?
Amazon Prime Wardrobe is a “new” service available exclusively for Amazon Prime members. Prime members can choose various clothing items to try out. Once shipped, the customers try on the clothes and decide on what to keep. The items they choose can be purchased at retail price and all other selections are returned free of charge.
It’s not an original concept per se; it’s quite reminiscent of the “online stylist” shopping subscription boxes such as Trunk Club or Stitch Fix. However, Amazon Prime Wardrobe’s major difference is that there’s no professional stylist. The customer chooses their own clothes, for better or worse.
How Does Amazon Prime Wardrobe Work?
Essentially, Amazon Prime Wardrobe is not just an “at-home fitting room” but also a more customer-friendly return system for clothes. This is how it works:
- Shoppers choose 3-8 items at a time among applicable clothing, shoes, and accessories.
- They have 7 days from delivery to try on the items and return the ones they don’t want. Shopper still must complete their order online before the 7-day deadline.
- Only the items they choose to keep are charged.
What makes this system particularly appealing to customers is how much easier it makes returns:
- Boxes are resealable.
- Deliveries comes with a pre-printed return label.
However, it’s worth noting that not all clothes on Amazon are eligible. Shoppers can go to the Prime Wardrobe section to choose items, or they can browse the normal Amazon marketplace and look for the Prime Wardrobe logo on the product page.
So, what’s stopping people from wearing the clothes for a week then returning them? Technically, nothing. However, Amazon specifies:
Items must be returned with tags on and in their original packaging, including: hangers, polybags, shoe boxes, dust bags, and gift boxes. Items must be unused, unworn, unwashed, and undamaged. When we receive a return, we will determine in our sole discretion if the products are in acceptable condition as specified in the Amazon Fashion returns policy. If returned products are determined by us not to be in acceptable condition, we may in our sole discretion charge you the purchase price and ship the products back to you to keep.
Only time will tell how effective Amazon’s “discretion” turns out to be.
How Does Amazon Prime Wardrobe Affect Sellers?
That’s hard to say at the moment. Many sellers are nervous about the program. As I mentioned earlier, clothing returns are already excessive. Regular clothes’ sellers already up to their V-necks in returns. Managing these additional returns can become unbearable. Many sellers also fear that Amazon Prime Wardrobe will become a free clothing rental service.
At the moment, it’s likely that only items from Amazon’s first-party vendors are eligible — after all, Amazon is in charge of investigating returns. It’s feasible Amazon would open the program to 3P sellers later on, although we can assume only to those sellers participating in FBA, again because Amazon investigates and handles the returns.
How much Amazon Prime Wardrobe affects sellers depends on how many of Amazon’s clothing customers are Prime members. Sellers not participating in Prime Wardrobe may see a drop in sales if customers embrace the convenience.
One thing is for sure, all clothes’ sellers on Amazon may need to rethink their return policies. Amazon Prime Wardrobe is positioning “free returns” to be the norm, so Prime customers are going to take this as a right, not a privilege. Sellers are going to have to remove their own barriers on returns just to compete, or at least offer something extra to compensate.
Keep in mind, Amazon Prime Wardrobe only recently left beta. It’s still in its experimental stages, so it’s hard to predict how customers will act.
That said, Prime Wardrobe has been in the works for about a year now, gradually opening up to more and more customers. The fact that Amazon launched it to all Prime members suggests the beta phase went well for them. Which is to say, Amazon seems confident in Prime Wardrobe, at least in making money for Amazon.