Online apparel shoppers bought $131.56 billion of merchandise from apparel/accessories retailers in the Top 1000 in 2022, up 5.1% over 2021. The category's size and influence suggests further analysis is warranted to understand the customer base.

Looking in depth at the numbers from our Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights survey of 1,003 online shoppers in June 2023 shows a very distinct behavior among younger shoppers. Apparel, like any category, is not a one-size-fits-all model, so it behooves retailers to “know their customers,” as the behavior of the average will not be a good guide when it comes to branding or tactical execution. It is the nuance that instead should propel one’s thinking to deliver the optimal shopping experience.

1. Young shoppers are spending more on apparel online.

With 34% of survey respondents saying they will be buying more apparel online, it’s interesting to see the other segments that exceed the average. Highest among the segments surveyed are those 18-29 (40%), 30-39 (39%) and females (37%).

2. Older shoppers will be spending less in stores.

From a store perspective, our focus is on segments of shoppers who intend to spend less in stores. Among them, the average came in at 33% vs. females at 42%. I’m wondering if the other segments that say they will buy less in store — including 65+ (41%), 55-64 (39%) and 40-54 (36%) — will also be buying less apparel overall.


3. Females and young shoppers look to be in vogue.

When you are young, being fashionable and keeping your wardrobe up to date may be of greater importance, as our research indicates. Females also over-index in this regard as well. A quick look shows an overall average of 31% of survey participants like to get something new. Females (38%), 18-29 year olds (32%) and 30-39 year olds (34%) all top the average. Seasonal changes sees a 6% higher rate for those 18-29 and 2% higher for those 30-39.

4. Young shoppers favor perusing user-generated content and videos.

When asked about how important website features and functionality were when shopping for apparel and accessories online, a look at three features speaks to the heightened interest among younger shoppers. The youth favor photos uploaded by other shoppers, videos, as well as customization that allows for products to be tailored uniquely to their needs.


5. Older shoppers are tactile and want to visit stores.

When it comes to visiting a physical store, those 40+ enjoy the in-person experience. They like to see the products and appreciate the option to try them on as well. On a side note, they are frugal when it comes to paying for shipping and visiting stores.

6. Younger shoppers seek out the specialists.

This is a category that provides many types of stores that shoppers can frequent. It’s instructive to look at the types of sites varying segments prefer. Younger shoppers gravitate to specific brands’ websites and specialty retailers. Local boutique shops also appear to resonate. They also can bring a price perspective to bear with off-price retailers and resale sites, though those sites may be seeing greater interest due to heightened environmental concerns among younger audiences.

7. Younger shoppers try out more online apparel services.

The trying out of online apparel services also received greater interest in the younger segments (18-39).


Two that stand out include the purchasing of custom products and those with a sustainable or other pro-environmental stance. The third is purchasing a pre-owned product. Meanwhile, respondents also indicated great interest in renting apparel or accessories online.

8. The youth key in on branding and sustainability.

The youth, not surprisingly, had more progressive tastes and were sensitive to branding on the part of retailers from the apparel and accessory categories. From a brand’s sustainability practices to its diversity stance to the presentation of a broad range of models to charitable giving, these elements all resonate more with younger audiences.


9. Social media plays a bigger role for younger audiences and females.

Of greatest interest is clicking on advertisements from apparel/accessory retailers as penetration among those 18-29 (31%) and 30-39 (33%) versus an average of 26% was seen. When it comes to inspiration, the average came in at 23% while female penetration was 30% and 18-29 (25%) and 30-39 (35%).

10. Younger shoppers are comfortable purchasing on social media platforms.

I thought it was insightful to look at those who sometimes made an apparel/accessory purchase on either a social platform or clicked through to make a purchase on a retailer’s website. Starting with a 60% average, the youth rule in purchasing, specifically those 18-29 (79%) and 30-39 (76%).


The bottom line is “know your shopper.” The behavior of a category in aggregate does not necessarily suggest how a distinct customer segment may behave when it comes to purchasing, adoption of features and services. Understanding these distinct patterns should drive a shopping experience that best resonates with your base. It will drive higher conversion and a better bottom-line performance.

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