Online is the growing trend for buying and browsing for apparel and accessories, according to a 2016 Apparel white paper from performance marketing firm HookLogic. The company analyzed nearly 6 million online transactions at retail sites that are part of its network. Retailers it works with include Target, Sears, Macy’s and Wal-Mart. The 6 million transactions represent $600 million in sales from Jan. 1 through Feb. 29, 2016.

The white paper cited a March 2016 review by comScore in which it said that apparel and accessories beat out computer hardware as the top-selling digital commerce category for three out of four quarters in 2015. Further, the report noted that the category’s e-commerce sales continue to grow at double-digit rates. The white paper also included a chart from eMarketer in which it predicted that e-commerce sales of apparel and accessories in the U.S. will reach nearly $87 billion by 2018, and that one could believe that sales could surpass the $100 billion mark by 2020.

Among the key takeaways from the study:

  • 63 percent of online shoppers begin their online search looking for a particular item;
  • 65 percent of online shoppers said they usually make their apparel purchases online;
  • 1 to 3 days in advance is the period in which most apparel shopper begin to think about their purchase, and
  • 70 percent of apparel shoppers cited product images a top-three purchase influencer.

In terms of omnichannel shopping behavior, the white paper included results from a study HookLogic commissioned from Market Tree looking at data on the shopping patterns of 600 consumers to better understand browsing, purchasing and conversion behavior for apparel products.

According to the findings, more than 55 percent of shoppers purchase apparel online, and most of the purchases — at 49 percent — are made online after browsing online. Interestingly, there’s also a group at 30 percent who purchase apparel offline, but browse online. HookLogic concluded that there’s likely two types of shoppers, one that has made the complete transition to online for apparel purchases, and a second type whose “distinct need” drives the person online or into a store, such as for socks and swimwear. Far less likely as the primary mode for apparel buys, at just 7 percent, is the situation where a consumer browses in a store for apparel and then makes the purchase online.

HookLogic said that since 67 percent of purchases start with an intended item in mind, 37 percent are more general or impulse-motivated, giving retailers “ample opportunity” to offer items that entice the shopper to buy.

And while photos are key for buying inducement, ratings and review don’t count much since most are about fit and that’s subjective. HookLogic said ratings and reviews can be more useful if “progressive retailers allow loyal shoppers” to upload photos of apparel purchases to demonstrate fit, along with their sizes and measurements to other consumers shopping on the site.