Shopping for Apparel Online

Advantages and Disadvantages of Shopping on the Internet for Clothing

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Selling apparel over the Internet has been one of the most rapidly changing and growing segments of electronic commerce due to demographic and technological factors fostering its growth. Research studies have shown that consumers in the 35-45 range, or what many marketers and demographers call the Baby Boom generation, prefer shopping online as they get older (Goldsmith and Goldsmith 2002). The reliance on multiple channels of purchasing, in conjunction with the Internet, is also becoming increasingly prevalent (Seock, Norton 2007). The implications of an aging customer base and a heavier reliance on multichannel merchandising and selling via the Internet is placing more importance than ever on the ability of apparel retailers’ websites to deliver a satisfactory online shopping experience for consumers (Goldsmith, Flynn 2005). The intent of this paper is to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing apparel online. The implications for online retailers of these advantages and disadvantages are also evaluated.

Advantages of Shopping for Apparel Online

In addition to the demographic and technological catalysts contributing to the growth of online shopping and sales of apparel, there are specific advantages to consumers as well. These include the opportunity of shop at any time day or night (24/7), shopping at their own pace, quickly compare prices and styles, availability and shipping dates, and also create alerts on search engines including Google, Yahoo and others to inform them when a new item is available. Several online retailers are also working to create RSS Feeds so that consumers can use their RSS Reader applications (Google Reader is one of the more prevalently used on) to find out when new apparel is available. RSS feeds are today a significant technology-based differentiator between online apparel websites as a result. Online apparel retailers are also using advanced color and product configuration web-based applications to make their products more accurately portrayed and more tailorable online.

In addition to these advantages, online retailers are prioritizing the development of their back-office systems and their integration to fulfillment partners including Federal Express, UPS and others. In addition, investments in back-office systems are making it more convenient for consumers to shop across affiliated online stores, further making online shopping more time- and energy efficient (Buckley, 2004). In summary, the many advantages of purchasing apparel online are being fueled by both demographic trends and technological developments that both support continued growth of this approach to purchasing on the part of consumers.

Disadvantages of Shopping for Apparel Online

Despite the catalysts that are driving the growth of online apparel shopping both from the consumers’ and online retailers’ perspective, there are still several major disadvantages that still exist. First, there is the major problem of online fraud and validating online retailers are not either reselling personal information on purchases, or operating a website that can be easily hacked for credit card numbers or other personal financial information (Kim, Kim, and Kandampully 2007). Technology vendors that specialize in online security continually are augmenting online verification and validation technologies to overcome this threat, yet there is still the issue of how to generate and sustain trust over time with customers online. A second disadvantage is the lack of accuracy in sizes and colors, despite advances in this area technologically there is still the problem of “Extra Large” having different meanings to different people. The challenge when purchasing online is to interpret what an online retailer is saying on their website relative to the consumers’ requirements. Third, many online retailers do not have a returns policy that is realistic, meaning they in many cases will not accept returns that may not fit correctly as portrayed on their website, or require customers to pay for shipping and restocking charges. Fourth, it’s often up to the consumer to make sure the package is insured, as many online retailers do not insure their packages being shipped to customers. Even though online retailers do have integration links to shipping companies including FedEx, UPS and others, when a package is lost depending on the online retailers’ inventory, it may be weeks or months until it is available again. Fifth, purchasing apparel online is problematic when dealing with international apparel sites, due to currency fluctuations and the implications of tax codes as well across nations.

In summary, the major disadvantages of purchasing apparel online center on the issue of protecting financial and personal information, in addition to ensuring the item(s) that are ordered and received are what is portrayed on the website as well.


Neil Buckley (2004, November 29). Internet shopping – the sequel: Four years after the bubble burst, e- tailing is back. But this time the stars are not start-ups but traditional retailers::[LONDON 1ST EDITION]. Financial Times, p. 10. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 748330821).

Ronald E. Goldsmith, Elizabeth B. Goldsmith. (2002). Buying apparel over the Internet. The Journal of Product and Brand Management, 11(2/3), 89. Retrieved December 13, 2007, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 252455661).

Ronald E. Goldsmith, Leisa R. Flynn. (2005). Bricks, clicks, and pix: apparel buyers’ use of stores, internet, and catalogs compared. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 33(4), 271-283. Retrieved December 16, 2007, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 862987661).

Jung-Hwan Kim, Minjeong Kim, Jay Kandampully. (2007). The Impact of Buying Environment Characteristics of Retail Websites. The Service Industries Journal, 27(7), 865. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1343723261).

Yoo-Kyoung Seock, Marjorie Norton. (2007). Attitude toward internet web sites, online information search, and channel choices for purchasing. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 11(4), 571-586. Retrieved December 14, 2007, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1337625521).