Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Apparel Shopping on the Web

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Apparel Shopping on the Web

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study focused on consumer response to apparel shopping on the Internet. Questionnaire I was administered to 63 college students familiar with the Internet. Questionnaire II contained specific questions related to apparel Web sites and was completed by 20 students who in Questionnaire I indicated that they had looked at an apparel Web site. Survey participants responded that Internet shopping involves different features than in-store shopping. The consumer can benefit from Web site attention to such features as a convenient and secure system of ordering, return policy, focus on product display, and offering products without heavy requirement of fit.

The Internet provides the consumer with numerous benefits: a time and cost saving shopping venue; 24-hour, 7-days-per-week accessibility; and consistent service-all of which can be experienced wherever the Internet can be accessed. With increasing demands on time, this shopping mode offers an appealing promise. However, there are unknowns concerning the effects of Internet shopping. A comparison of shopping for apparel via the Web with more traditional venues such as in-store or catalog shopping must be examined to understand potential impact upon the consumer.

Apparel on the Internet has a promising future as evidenced by the tremendous growth of the commercial aspect of the World Wide Web over the last two years. Although there is great potential for selling on line, the apparel industry has not made the progress of other industries. Part of the hesitation is a lack of knowledge about what the consumer wants. For example, in-store shopping involves such skills as use of visual, tactile, and kinesthetic senses, all thought necessary to make a sale in apparel. To use the Internet requires a different set of skills. Thus, a consumer survey was considered an appropriate first step to discover how optimal experiences can be assured in the design of apparel Web sites.

The purpose of this study was to examine the status and potential of apparel Web site experiences from the perspective of the consumer. This examination included gathering data on Internet use and on selected apparel Web sites, summarizing survey results, and making recommendations for the development and design of future apparel Web sites.

Internet Access and Growth of Online Commerce

From the perspective of on-line commerce, the current growth and positive financial projections for many products show a promising future. On-line sales of 1997 were predicted to double in 1998, reaching sales of $4.8 billion. Retail items selling the best on-line are books, computer software, and travel services. For example, the Amazon.com site (an on-line bookstore) reported over $90 million in sales last year ("Retail On-line," 1998). According to Maria Cadison, senior analyst for the Boston-based Forrester Research, apparel and related products sales on line are expected to rise from $92 million in 1997 to $514 million by 2001 ("Clothing in a click?" 1998).

Internet access is an issue for on-line commerce to prosper. However, statistics indicate that 40% of households in the U.S. have computers and 51% of Internet users access the Internet 10 or more hours a week (Silverman, 1998a, 1998b). According to International Data Corporation, by the year 2000 there will be an estimated 163 million Internet users worldwide. Currently there are 68.5 million Internet users worldwide, whereas in 1996 there were 34.6 million. The average age of Internet users is 35 (Gupta,1995; Hoffman, Novak, & Chatterjee, 1996) . Of adult Internet users, 58% are male and 42% are female, although women are the dominant users of apparel Web sites ("American Internet User Survey," 1998). Fashionmall.com reported that 62% of its browsers are female ("Clothing in a click?" 1998). Thus, the popularity of the Internet is larger than expected, with women and men both having a significant presence online. …

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