An editorial shooting from Matchesfashion.com.

What men want is the holy grail online retailers are trying to figure out in order to better cater to their male audience, which is evolving fast — and growing even faster.

According to market search firm Euromonitor International, global sales of men’s fashion, including apparel and footwear both online and off-line, are poised to generate revenues this year of $452.47 billion versus $440.24 billion in 2018, with sales in 2020 expected to climb to an estimated $473.86 billion.

Munich-based retailer Mytheresa is the latest to dive into the fray by kicking off a men’s section in January, while Moda Operandi entered the market last year. Mr Porter — launched in 2011 — introduced its own label, Mr P, in 2017 and Matchesfashion.com has been ramping up exclusive men’s wear drops and capsules with international luxury labels.

Customers’ rapidly changing purchasing habits and craving for fresh product are pushing online fashion destinations to constantly adapt in a bid to stay relevant.

“The men’s wear consumer is constantly evolving, he is far more sophisticated and braver in his style and online purchases than he used to be,” said Fiona Firth, buying director at Mr Porter.

“They are less risk averse and certainly quicker to purchase items. Gone are the days when items would sit in their wish lists for weeks,” echoed Damien Paul, head of men’s wear at Matchesfashion.com.

According to a study conducted exclusively for WWD by fashion search platform Lyst, over the past 12 months “directional brands,” including Vetements, Yeezy and Gosha Rubchinskiy, as well as functional labels have lost ground in favor of “superbrands,” such as pure luxury players. Gucci topped the list of the 10 most-searched brands in that period and Ralph Lauren, Moncler, Versace and Givenchy are some of the luxury labels that scored high positions.

“Men are willing to purchase ‘big ticket’ fashion and luxury apparel online. This is a relatively new development, as the strongest categories online have traditionally been footwear and accessories,” said Josh Peskowitz, Moda Operandi’s fashion director of men’s, noting this indicates the growth of self-styling.

“We’ve been targeting trend-led consumers, selling pieces that are hardly available off-line,” noted Francesco Galli, chief executive officer of Italy’s Folli Follie physical store and The Double F online shop. Its selection encompasses both high-end labels and niche brands with a strong social media presence.

As sneakers continue to be one of the best-selling categories, the Lyst research showed that Balenciaga, which scored the fourth position in the ranking, is still strong with its chunky Triple S and Speed Sock sneakers still booming in the category.

“Over the last few years as street and casualwear ruled the runway, traditional tailoring had definitely fallen by the wayside as men dressed more casually in their everyday lives,” noted Firth. Despite this, she underscored that starting with fall 2019, collections will see an increased cross-pollination between casual and sartorial styles. Peskowitz agreed, noting the trend is already gaining ground.

“There is a marked decrease in the graphic, logo-heavy aesthetic in the market, and this we find encouraging,” he said, adding that sneakers continue to show momentum.

A Moda Operandi's editorial image.

An editorial image from Moda Operandi.  Courtesy Image.

Michael Kliger, president of Mytheresa, said in an interview with WWD in May that the retailer wants to deliver “high-fashion, post-streetwear,” offering a tight selection with a distinctive point of view.

“An edited selection of brands and the ability to offer total looks is pivotal to increase the number of items per ticket,” noted Alessandro Maria Ferreri, ceo and owner of The Style Gate consulting firm. “In addition, this strategy allows [a retailer] to attract a range of less fashion-savvy customers,” he added.

“Buying with an eye to a cohesive whole allows us to have the point of view that mimics that of a truly unique specialty boutique. This creates a dialogue with our customers,” explained Peskowitz, noting Moda Operandi carries around 125 brands.

At Matches, its formula encompasses a “unique mix of content, commerce and community,” Paul explained.

Men also have different reasons for buying online compared to female shoppers, thus leading to different purchasing habits.

“For many reasons, the approach to online sales is not ‘gender fluid,’” Ferreri said. “Men started buying online because they lacked time and wanted to get the perfect pair of jeans and avoid the frenzy of physical stores,” he said.

“Shopping via mobile devices is becoming increasingly more frequent and important; men have always wanted their shopping experience to be quick, easy and stress free,” Firth noted.

Online retailers generally described their customers as loyal and recurring. “I think that our customers see us as a trusted partner,” Paul said.

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