M-commerce was, for many retailers, the key to marketing and sales innovation in 2016. Consumers are now spoilt for choice as to how, when and where they buy their products. One of the most challenging markets for e- and m- commerce has been apparel, where customers have become accustomed to being able to try on products before they buy them. Old habits die hard and surface level data shows that online clothes shopping still trails behind traditional channels. However, the latest research from YouGov, one of the world’s leading research firms, reveals that the sands may slowly be shifting.
In-store shopping is still mainstream for buying apparel in APAC, website comes second, share for apps is still low
YouGov polled 9,037 people across Asia Pacific in December 2016 to investigate the apparel shopping habits among the online population. For consumers across the Asia Pacific, shopping in-store is still the dominant means of purchasing apparel; more than three-quarters of those polled (79%) have shopped in-store in the past year. Shopping in-store is particularly prevalent for shoppers in Hong Kong, Australia, and Malaysia, where 88%, 85% and 84% have done so, respectively.
Shopping online via a website is the second most popular method of purchasing apparel; nearly half of respondents in APAC (45%) have used a website to shop for clothing and accessories over the past year. The popularity of e-commerce has surged in China, where three-quarters (75%) of people have bought apparel via a website over the past year.
Local markets and street vendors also retain some popularity, attracting 28% of consumers in APAC. They are the most popular in Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, where 41%, 38% and 36% of respondents, respectively, have bought apparel from in the past year.
By contrast, apps are yet to break into the mainstream and have only been used to buy apparel by 15% of those polled in the past year. App usage peaks in Indonesia, China and Singapore where nearly one in five people (19%, 18% and 18% respectively) have purchased apparel through an app in the past year.
Young people are more than six times as likely to have shopped via an app than older generations
Yet indicators suggest that shopping trends are set to change. Young people are more than twice as likely to have shopped using a website in the past year and more than six times as likely to have shopped via an app than older generations. Half of those aged 16-24 (51%) have shopped using a website over the past year and nearly a fifth (19%) have used an app. By contrast, just a quarter of over 55s (24%) shopped using a website and only 3% have used an app.
Conversely, shopping in-store is most popular with older generations; 90% of over 55s have shopped in store, compared to 75% of 16-24 year olds. This suggests that, as one might expect, younger generations may be more open to shopping with new technologies than older generations. In time, what is now the exception could well become the rule.
Yet local markets and street vendors seem to buck the trend. They are more popular with young people than older generations; 35% of 16-24s purchase from markets compared with 23% of over 55s. Could the decline of the high street be coupled with the revival of local markets, or is it simply that young people are strapped for cash and looking for a cheaper alternative to high street and luxury brands?
Two thirds of consumers shop using apps because it saves time over physical stores
The benefits of shopping for apparel using new technologies are not lost on consumers and the most popular reason for using them is to save time over shopping in physical stores (cited by 69% of those that have shopped using websites over the past year and 66% of those who have used apps).
Over half of those who shop online also value the price savings, with 58% of those who have shopped through websites and 54% of those who have shopped via apps citing price as an advantage of online shopping.
However, there are still clear benefits to in-store shopping. Over three-quarters of those that have done so (78%) like to try out apparel before they buy it, 73% want to check the quality before they buy, and 56% simply enjoy shopping around.
Almost 40% of consumers believe that retailers will close physical stores
E- and m- commerce still have a long way to go before they can rival more traditional shopping experiences for convenience as well as for enjoyment. Opinions are divided as to whether new technologies are indeed up to the challenge. While 39% of respondents believe that retailers will close physical stores as online shopping becomes more popular, 36% don’t think they will.
While the future of clothes shopping remains unknown, a glance at how younger generations’ shopping habits may give us a glimpse of trends to come.
Data was collected from research among YouGov’s panelists and was weighted to be representative of online population. Sample size: Asia Pacific (n = 9,037; Australia: 1,009; China: 1,003; Hong Kong: 1003; Indonesia: 996; Malaysia: 1,003; Philippines: 1,008; Singapore: 1,004; Thailand: 1,004; Vietnam: 1,007)