Among online apparel shoppers, 54% have researched or bought clothes in the past month.

Books, stationery and office supplies stands as the most common product category consumers shop for online, with 48% of survey respondents reporting that they have shopped for those items within the last year, according to a new report from market research firm The NPD Group Inc.

Apparel and consumer electronics follow closely behind, with each of those categories at 46%. Additionally,  34% of consumers say they have shopped for shoes and boots online and 25% shopped for fashion accessories, such as scarves. The online survey, which polled 10,266 consumers between Nov. 28 and Dec. 12, considers online shopping to include researching, browsing and buying. This is the first year of this study, so NPD had no historical data.

Of those consumers who have shopped for apparel online, 54% say they did so within the past month, compared with 33% for footwear shoppers and 28% for fashion accessory shoppers.

The survey results show that apparel and accessories retailers have made inroads in getting consumers more comfortable with shopping online, but they still have a way to go, says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “As we enter the second decade of e-commerce it becomes more important for retailers, and perhaps even more so for fashion retailers, to use their online properties to offer an evolved shopping experience, a three-dimensional shopping experience. That is to combine the two dimensions of brick and mortar, the ‘touch and feel’, with the ‘information and impulse’ of the online experience.”

Of consumers who shop for clothes online, 73% not only research and browse but also buy, the survey found. Also, 62% of shoe shoppers said they also bought a pair and 56% who shopped for fashion accessories made a purchase.


NPD also looked into the effect of social media on shoppers’ buying patterns, and found 25% of survey respondents follow a retailer or brand on a social network. When asked if they ever shopped for a product online as a result of something they had seen on a social media site, 27% said yes. Women were significantly more likely than men to report such behavior, the survey found.

“Popular is one thing, purchasing is another. With one out of every four online visitors saying they follow a retailer or brand, it’s up to them now to convert them to purchasers,” says Cohen, “Social media should be an area where brands and retailers alike focus on connecting with the consumer. This is an area in which they can develop a relationship with consumers that will ultimately drive future growth.”