The Internet is increasingly influencing clothing purchases
The Internet has become a significant factor influencing the decision of consumers to buy clothing, even if the eventual purchase takes place in store. More than two thirds of consumers with Internet access compare prices online, read reviews, visit homepages of clothing manufacturers or research new brands on their computers and mobile devices. Though this trend of internet use in textile purchase is global, the size of the market varies by regions. One of the major factors determining the strength of the online market for home textiles and clothing is the development of the total B2C E-Commerce market in the country or region. For this reason, USA is the leading market worldwide, with online retail sales of clothing about to top half a hundred billions US dollars this year, outpacing the total B2C E-Commerce market in terms of annual growth.
Though growth is global, regional differences exist in online shopping for clothing
Clothing and accessories is among the leading online product categories in such regions as North America, Western Europe, and the richest Asian countries, which are also the most developed B2C E-Commerce markets worldwide. An increasing share of online shoppers in these regions buy clothing over the Internet, sometimes even a larger share than that of shoppers buying books or consumer electronics. This trend is even more pronounced among users of smartphones and tablets. For example, in the USA, books and video games are more popular in E-Commerce than clothing, but in M-Commerce clothing is unbeaten. About a quarter of US consumers who bought apparel online in the beginning of last year used mobile devices to do so. Across the Atlantic, in the European Union, the share of individuals purchasing clothes and sports goods online increased in 2012, reaching over 20% of individuals. The growth trend in popularity of online shopping for fashion products is reflected in revenues.
In Germany, for example, B2C E-Commerce sales of apparel grew by almost one third in 2012, reaching a high one-digit number in millions of Euros. UK is also one of the most advanced markets for online clothing, with the online and mobile channel together accounting for over 10% of total retail sales of clothing last year. The share of UK consumers who prefer Internet over other sales channels of clothing more than doubled in the last two years. The same trend is noticeable in Japan, where clothing is the most purchased product in online retail, and Internet is the preferred channel of more and more consumers for the purchase of fashion products.
Emerging markets started to come to the forefront of the clothing E-Commerce market last year and are expected to make a further step in 2013. The potential of the online clothing retail in such markets as China and Russia, expressed in high growth figures and increasing number of online shoppers, has attracted the attention of global clothing retailers and investors in recent years and will continue to be in the spotlight. The Chinese E-Commerce market for clothing, including B2C and C2C, grew by over a half in 2012 and is likely to continue booming. In Russia, local online clothing retailers saw their sales surge upwards in 2012, as more consumers grow increasingly comfortable with shopping for clothing online and local and foreign capitalists pour in investments of millions of US dollars.
Technological developments may influence clothing and apparel purchases.
A recent innovative breakthrough which may have a major influence on E- and M-commerce markets for apparel is development of 3D body scanners to find the right sizes. Online clothing retailers have long tried to convince consumers of the convenience and safety of buying apparel over the Internet, which has no fitting rooms to try on the items prior to the purchase, by posting videos with demonstrations and adding product guides to the websites. The problem might be resolved with new technology: the 3D scanners are already installed in several UK and US shops, and several tech firms started to offer home scans installed in web cameras. Moreover, one US tech start-up developed an application that gives a list of suitable products from a retail website by processing body parameters and the preferences for clothing entered by the user.
Growth in online purchase of apparel through M-Commerce expected to continue.
The global online clothing boom is likely to persist in the coming years, as the B2C E-Commerce market and the related infrastructure and technology develop and customers grow more confident in shopping for apparel online and perceive the benefits of this channel compared to shopping in brick and mortar stores. The growth in sales in the developed markets will continue, but the growth rates are likely to decrease. More clothing retailers and manufacturers from these markets will explore the online and mobile channel at home, as well as abroad. Their attention, as well as that of investors, will also be directed at the emerging markets in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and some African and Middle Eastern countries. These markets will also grow strong local market players which are likely to start expanding to neighboring countries. Finally, technological advances and mobile innovations are likely to make online shopping for apparel and textiles more attractive and convenient.
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