Purchasing Preferences

Purchasing Preferences HeaderIn 2014, shoppers in the U.S. spent over $320 billion on clothing, shoes, and accessories. By 2021, it’s estimated more than $96 billion of the total retail industry will be spent online.

We surveyed 1,000 men and women about their spending habits. We asked them how often they buy in-store versus online, which they prefer, and why. We even polled them about which clothing items they preferred to buy online and in-store. Want to know which generations are buying (or returning) online, and what’s influencing their purchases? Keep reading to find out.

Shopping Habits Online vs. In-Store

Ecommerce across the U.S. is growing. At least one study found more customers today prefer to shop online than in-store, and the clothing and accessories business is one of the top three categories for online shopping.

Of the 1,000 people surveyed about their shopping habits, most people shopped as much online as they did in a physical store location. While some people only shopped online or in-store once every couple of months, women who shopped multiple times a week were more likely to do so online versus visiting a brick-and-mortar store.

Men and women who shopped a handful of times each month were nearly equally as likely to do so online and in-store. While women who made purchases at least three times a week were slightly more likely to shop online, men shopping at this volume didn’t appear to have a preference when it came to in-store and online shopping. Similarly, women who shopped once or twice a week were nearly twice as likely to shop online, and men were more than twice as likely to shop at this frequency via the web rather than in-store.


Digital Shopping Preferences

online shopping preferences
Within each demographic we explored, convenience was the top reason people preferred to shop online. Unlike in-store shopping, online retail can happen anywhere. From the couch to the parking lot at work, there’s almost no location where shopping online isn’t possible when the urge strikes.

More than a third of women listed a better selection as their No. 2 reason for shopping online. From finding a basic item that may not be readily available in a local shop to niche items that are sometimes impossible to find in brick-and-mortar locations, the vast selection of shopping online is an advantage for women.

Some may argue the price is the deciding factor for the rising popularity of ecommerce shopping, but we found that less than one in 10 Generation X and millennials respondents said savings made the difference. Although, research has shown that millennials tend to favor online shopping over any other generation, and spend half of their shopping budgets online.


In-Store Advantages

in-store preferences
Shopping in-store can have its advantages too. The No. 1 reason for women and men to shop at a physical location was to feel and try clothes on before purchasing.

This preference has inspired new online clothing retailers to experiment with helping customers try on clothes without ever leaving their home. Some companies have gone so far as to create lifelike 3-D models that use customers’ measurements to visualize how clothes might look.

Thirteen percent of baby boomers wanted to see items in person before purchasing. Very few would-be customers said the social aspect of shopping or customer service swayed their decision to shop in-store rather than online.

Men and Women’s Shopping Trends

items bought online and in-store
More than half of men preferred to shop for shoes in-store, while nearly 44 percent opted to purchase shoes online. Research has shown men generally pay more for clothing and shoes than women do, and their online spending outranks women across the board. In fact, 45 percent more men than women spend over $1,000 on shoes annually.

Over 50 percent of women preferred to shop for their undergarments, like bras and underwear, in a physical store. However, one study found the majority of women neither try their bras on before buying them nor often return them. Thirty-nine percent of women would rather buy their undergarments online – the highest percentage of women in any online shopping category.

The Impact of Social Media

influence of social media

While online and in-store shoppers were just as likely to be influenced by friends and peers when it came to purchases, more millennial men and women said social media posts impacted their online buying decisions.

Social media has a tremendous impact on the fashion industry – from how it’s advertised to how it’s sold – and bloggers and online influencers are no exceptions. These Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook users have millions of followers, and the fashion industry is embracing the way consumers see their products when featured on these sites and pages. Shoppers are definitely listening. In one example, Arielle Charnas of the blog “Something Navy” posted about a skincare product on her Snapchat story, directly resulting in over $17,000 worth of sales within 24 hours.

Of social media outlets, Facebook and Instagram ads and posts had the most influence on people deciding to shop in-store or online, although Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube had an overall stronger impact on sales.

Will They Take It Back?

return frequency
More people today are shopping online rather than in-store, and people who shop online are more likely to return their purchases.

Millennials were the most likely to always or often return their online purchases. Millennials have been found to be both frugal spenders and less likely to take big risks in life, which may contribute to their lack of decisiveness when shopping for new apparel.

Our survey also found baby boomers were the most likely of any demographic to return their online purchases rarely.


If you’re looking to engage in ecommerce for clothing and apparel, our research can help you understand the buying patterns of men and women of every age, and what’s influencing their decisions.

Customers who shop online reported shopping more frequently, especially for things like shirts and activewear. With reduced overhead costs and more options for larger selections, online retail solutions may be more convenient for you and your customers.

For more on this, online web design, SEO, and mobile presentation, visit us online at Corra. We find innovative solutions to meet our clients’ needs, and we believe in helping you grow your ecommerce vision and brand to its highest potential. Visit Corra.com online today to learn more.


We surveyed 1,000 people to learn about their shopping habits and preferences.

Fair Use Statement

Want to share this with the shop-a-holics in your life? Feel free, as long as it’s for noncommercial use. We just ask you link back to this page and the authors, so your readers can check out the full study and methodology.