The Data Digest: For Men And Women's Clothing Purchases, Timing Is Everything

Here in Boston, we are at a precious moment in the year: The early onset of cool, dark evenings sets the stage for the imminent holiday season — but doesn’t eclipse the warmth of the autumn sun quite yet. As the seasons change, we have a few rare days of mild weather that I can’t pass up, so, like my fellow city-dwellers, I make a little extra time to walk and window-shop.

Except — I hardly ever return with empty hands. Especially when I spot a sale at my favorite clothing retailer, it doesn’t take long before my intended walk turns into a shopping spree. Fortunately, our data shows that I’m not the only one who falls for the spontaneous clothing purchase. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reveals that women in particular buy apparel on impulse:

In fact, our data shows that 43% of women don’t research clothing at all prior to making a purchase, compared with only 36% of men. And those women who do research apparel predominantly count the in-store browsing experience as their product research, while men often use both online and offline tools.

Whether these stark gender differences are a function of cultural conditioning, deep-seated motivations, or even biology, marketers must consider the unique behaviors — particularly when preparing to win business as consumers kick into gear for the holidays. As one female member of our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community revealed to us recently, “I have not started my holiday shopping yet, but I have started my planning. Now whenever I go to a store, I look around with gift ideas in my thoughts.”

Retailers bracing for the influx of online and offline shoppers must not forget that details of the brick-and-mortar experience will have a powerful effect on customers — even those who are simply picking up items ordered online will represent highly qualified traffic. As my colleague Brendan Witcher advises in his recent report, retailers should “proactively encourage customers to explore items in-store by including product recommendations on a pickup receipt. . . . Retailers should also analyze other value-added services, not to mention a well merchandised checkout display, that will encourage customers to continue shopping rather than head straight for the exit.” By appealing to men and women's emotions and unique motivations in the store, apparel retailers can draw consumers into the experience and spark a purchase — in many cases, instantly. 

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