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In the know

Results from Drapers’ latest consumer research into buying fashion online show how retailers can compete on things other than price

To download the full report click here

It’s easy to write off online shoppers as flighty, price-focused bargain hunters, who aren’t loyal to either fashion retailers or fashion brands. But actually the results of our research show that this is far from the case.

Drapers created its second Etail Report, which surveyed 2,000 consumers on their attitudes to buying fashion online, after the success of the first report last year – which about 1,000 readers downloaded. The results from the second report are just as compelling, showing how far consumer attitudes have moved on developments such as tablet computers, click- and-collect and online purchasing among the over-55s.

One of the highlights of the research was how loyal consumers are to retailers and brands that can give them the products they want while providing value through price and service.

Price is always going to be an important consideration, and it is one of the reasons why so many consumers research online before making their offline purchases too, but it’s not the only consideration. Convenience and ease of browsing online are both cited by more consumers than price as among their reasons for buying online. And more than a third also believe there is more choice online than in stores.

Price is unsurprisingly a bigger issue for lower income groups, particularly those earning less than £30,000 a year – 51% give it as a reason for shopping online for fashion. In comparison, only 30% in the £80,000 and over income category mention it.

Starting points

The research shows 47% of those who buy fashion online go straight to their favourite retailers’ websites with a slight bias towards women. The sale is there for the taking, and retailers should be closely examining what this group of customers does once they arrive on the site if they want to improve their conversion rates.

A further 27% begin online shopping journeys by visiting their favourite retailers’ stores. There is an assumption that the research offline and purchase online shopping journey is applicable to big-ticket items, but this shows otherwise and demonstrates how inter-dependent the different channels are becoming for fashion retailers. Meanwhile, 18.5% visit their local high street or shopping centre to look at a range of shops before buying online.

In comparison, a third start their online shopping on a search engine such as Google. This highlights a bias towards women using favourite retailers’ names in search engines, whereas men are more likely to use fashion brand terms. This reflects the general fashion purchase habits of the different genders.

Only 21% of respondents never browse for fashion through search engines, demonstrating it is another important aspect of the online shopping journey even for consumers who already have a good idea about the brand or retailer they want to buy from.

Going offline

The report also shows the growing importance of retailers’ websites as a driver of traffic to stores. Only 13% of women surveyed never browse a fashion retailer’s website before going to the store. The figure for men is higher at 22%, but this still means the majority of consumers do at least sometimes begin their offline purchase journeys on a retailer’s website.

Of those surveyed, 48% would like store stock availability information on fashion retailers’ sites, but only if it is up to date. A further 20% would like it even if it is only an indicator of likely stock levels in store. Only 17.5% wouldn’t be interested in such information because they don’t ever browse fashion retailers’ websites before going to their stores.  

Click-and-collect services for fashion purchases are also growing in appeal. The group that is most interested in either buying or reserving products online to collect in-store is the 25 to 34 age group. However, there is a good interest across all age ranges, and overall 59% expressed a preference for either buying or reserving online and collecting in store.

The growing number of retailers launching click-and-collect services will likely influence the channel that consumers use to make fashion purchases in the future. At the moment price is the most likely factor in deciding whether a consumer buys a fashion item online or offline – 22% cite this as the main reason. The 18 to 34 age group is less likely to make a channel decision based on price than older shoppers, and the richer are less likely to than lower income shoppers.

But 16% say the main decider between buying online or offline is how quickly they can have it delivered, and a further 10% base it on how convenient delivery is. Meanwhile, 17% say whether they feel they need to try it on is key. So in total, more people are influenced by a factor other than price.

The results outlined here are the tip of the iceberg in terms of the insight gleaned from looking at the full survey results. Whether you are only just beginning to sell online, or a seasoned online fashion business, the results provide food for thought at a time when customer expectations are greater than ever before.


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