If you read any retail news during the holidays you know that online shopping is increasing, and it’s increasing quickly. Last week, we published a report on the top 5 learnings from the 2015 holiday shopping season and one of the findings outlined the shift towards online shopping. The National Retail Federation reported that this was the first time that more consumers shopped online than shopped in stores during the Black Friday weekend.

As more consumers are opting for the online shopping experience, online retailers have a large opportunity to attract more traffic and shoppers to their site. So how can retailers stand apart? One good way is to try to address consumers’ online shopping complaints.

From mid-January to the end of January 2016, CivicScience polled over 4,400 U.S. adult consumers on what they dislike most about shopping for apparel online. We eliminated consumers who responded “I don’t do any apparel shopping online” to find the top frustrations about online apparel shopping.

online apparel shopping dislikes

The top complaint consumers have while online apparel shopping is when they receive a product that is different than what was expected (size, color, quality, etc.). Thirty-seven percent of adults list this as their largest gripe. Twenty-one percent of consumers dislike paying for shipping (and some retailers are already making changes to address this grumble – Amazon Prime), and 17% of consumers think returns are a hassle when purchasing products online. It’s interesting that waiting for deliveries is not higher on the list. Consumers are more willing to wait for their deliveries, while free shipping is almost expected.

Now let’s dig into the types of consumers who chose the top three frustrations of online apparel shopping:

online apparel shopping dislikes table

Among the groups, those who dislike paying for shipping are the most likely to be women. Those who dislike receiving a product that is different from their expectations are more likely to be millennials, while those who think returns are a hassle are more likely than the others to be 35-54 years old.

Let’s see what retailers can learn beyond basic demographics about consumers’ top online grievances.

Product is different from expectation

Those who dislike receiving a product that’s different from their expectations are 32% more likely to say social media comments and recommendations have the most influence on their purchases. They are also 32% more likely to use their smartphone to research products they want to purchase. Although this complaint is more challenging for online retailers to resolve, making reviews readily available and noting if the product has a different fit or color than the picture could be helpful, especially since the people who care most about this do research before making their purchases.

This group of consumers are 21% more likely to tell others about new brands and technology, so they are willing to spread the word about products they are happy with. And those who are frustrated when the color, quality, or fit is different than expected based on the photo or description are 82% more likely to be active (daily/weekly) users of Pinterest. Offering more detailed descriptions and taking multiple product photos may help address this issue.

Returns are a hassle

Those who dislike the hassle of returns are more likely to not be loyal to their favorite brands (80% more likely to not be loyal). Considering these consumers are not brand loyal, they may be persuaded to shop at retail sites that have a more hassle-free return policy. They are 20% more likely to have school-aged children living with them, so it may be more difficult for them to return their items to a store or drop off a package at a shipping center. Online retailers may be able to alleviate the hassle associated with returns by including a return shipping label and maybe even adding the option for the package to be picked up at the customer’s doorstep. Shoppers may not even mind paying a few bucks for shipping if they don’t have to travel to make a return.

Paying for shipping

Although these consumers have a higher than average income, their coupon usage tells us they are price sensitive. They are 70% more likely to use coupons every chance they get when shopping for non-grocery items. In addition to offering free shipping for consumers when they spend a certain amount, maybe retailers can also offer free shipping one day a month. Also, experimenting with free shipping coupons may be beneficial. Even if there’s a free shipping method that may have a longer delivery period, consumers probably won’t care as much given only 8% say their biggest dislike is waiting for deliveries.

Retailer take-aways

With consumers doing more shopping online, retailers have a large opportunity to grow their customer base. It’s interesting to see that consumers are more willing to wait for their orders to be delivered, so online retailers offering 2-3 day shipping may not be as popular as a company offering free shipping. It would be a big win for online retailers if they can solve the hassle of returns and also supply consumers with better product photos and descriptions. By addressing some of consumers’ top complaints about online apparel shopping, retailers may find more people are willing to spend time and money on their site.