Older women's experiences with online apparel shopping
The U.S. Bureau of the Census (2010) expects that the older population will constitute about 20 percent of the total U.S. population in 2050. With rapidly increasing numbers in the older population, the older market has attracted attention from fashion retailers because of their higher purchasing power. In spite of the importance of older consumers in the fashion market, there has been little research of the apparel shopping of older consumers. In particular, few studies have been conducted on older women's online apparel shopping. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore older women's experiences with online apparel shopping and to increase understanding of how older women shop for apparel online.
The qualitative study was designed to explore how older women shop for apparel online. In-depth, face-to-face interviews and observations were conducted with 13 women who were 66 to 73 years of age and had experience purchasing apparel products online at least three times within the last two years. Most women included in this study were active online shoppers, and they have had positive experiences purchasing apparel products online. They did not have substantial problems with online apparel shopping, and they felt comfortable with it. Participants were motivated to do online apparel shopping because of the advantages of online shopping, such as convenience, lower prices, and variety of product offerings. They also were motivated to do online apparel shopping by other shopping channels, including mailed catalogs and stores. Their online apparel shopping was often more intentional than it would have been in a store where more browsing might occur.
All the participants in this study were concerned about the fit and size of garments when they did online apparel shopping due to the inconsistency of sizes among brands. They also were concerned about the accuracy of information in websites, the return process, and the security of electronic payments. The participants' purchase decisions for apparel online were directly associated with their concerns about online apparel shopping. Participants were more willing to buy apparel online when they knew what size they needed. They could reduce their concerns regarding fit and size of garments through online consumers' reviews and ratings. Shipping information and a good return policy also had a significant impact on their decision whether to buy apparel online or not. The features of the websites (e.g., interactive technologies and product suggestions) were positively associated with their intentions for shopping and purchasing apparel products online and from specific websites. Furthermore, patterns of online shopping behavior and suggestions for online fashion retailers were revealed from the observations, which the researcher collected when the participants went through an apparel shopping website of their choosing.
In the present study older women had similar motivations for and concerns with online apparel shopping as did younger consumers, but they had some different shopping patterns from those of younger consumers for online apparel shopping (e.g., needs, styles, sizes, and possibly search and ordering patterns). Therefore, the findings of this study advance understanding of older women's online apparel shopping and also have practical implications for fashion retailers who target older women.