Online retailers are increasingly using Augmented Reality (AR) to help overcome the apparent boom in customer returns.

According to Narvar—a company whose platform provides support in shipping, tracking, notifications and returns with algorithms to understand trends, predict behavior and optimize customer experience, enabling retailers to convert customers, engage with them and promote the brand—not only are online customer returns booming, but fashion accounts for 46% of them. They report that 26% of shoppers they surveyed had returned more than four items in the prior six moths.

So what does this mean for you if you have an online retail aspect to your shop, or are thinking of starting one? Well, the short answer is, expect returns. An industry-wide survey of retailers revealed an almost 17% return rate and, more alarmingly, “. . . for every $100 in returned merchandise accepted, retailers lose $10.30 to return fraud.”

This is where AR comes in. Given that fit and size are the two main reasons for returns, AR helps customers deal with those two issues by “trying on” the item before deciding on the size, fit, and colour to order. This allows customers to make more informed purchases, thus reducing the possibility for returns. AR also enhances the buying experience in other ways thereby serving to further increase sales.

But is AR technology only affordable by the big retailers? Apparently not. By a brief online search I found that a basic AR app could cost as little as $1,000, while more sophisticated custom-built AR apps can exceed $300,000.

What does all of this mean for your online retail clothing operation? It may be worth considering AR to enhance your customers’ experience but also minimize returns. Considering how crowded and competitive the online T-shirt market is, AR could give you a competitive advantage.

You have research to do.