Why more men are turning to online shopping

Men's accessories.

Shopping – or rather, online shopping – looks set to shed its stereotypical image of being a woman's arena. Statistics and anecdotal evidence show that more men are shopping online for various items.  

According to PayPal, there is an equal distribution of male and female online shoppers today – 49 per cent male and 51 per cent female.

A spokesperson from mobile shopping app Carousell also shared that the site has seen an increase of male users.

“Up until 18 months ago, 70 per cent of our users in Singapore were female and only 30 per cent male, but the split is now 50-50,” said Carousell spokesperson Vanessa Valerie Tay, adding that the most commonly searched items include shirts, gadgets and Lego.

Breaking the stereotypical image of men shopping only for tech or other non-fashion items, many male customers are indeed purchasing clothes and accessories online.

Among the reasons given by customers and retailers for the surging numbers of male online shoppers are convenience and better pricing.

More affordable

Take clinical research associate Brian Yong, 29, for example – his online shopping habits began when he spotted an irresistible offer that appeared in an online ad  by Zalora on Facebook back in 2011.

“There was a nice pair of formal leather shoes that interested me with a reasonable price tag, so I clicked on it and that’s where it all began.”

Yong, who shops at least once a month online these days frequents sites like Zalora and Hypebeast.

“So far, the best shopping experience came from Zalora, because I can do exchanges and get refunds from my purchases very quickly," he said.

Yong said there’s a certain novelty when it comes to online shopping.

“I enjoy the luxury of having products shipped to my doorstep, and the anticipation from waiting for my purchased products to arrive," he shared, adding that the flexibility of being able to shop in the evenings also helps as he is often too busy to go shopping in the day.

Yong said that while the clothing options online are reasonable, he would like to see more accessories available, such as belts, watches, even necklaces for men.

Spotting trends

Catalogue magazine's associate editor Anton D. Javier, 31, also shops online because he can get better prices there.

Javier said he checks out items in physical stores first, then makes his purchases online.

“I hardly buy apparel online. The things I buy are usually accessories like bags and shoes, because I like trying on clothes before making a purchase," he said.

He also frequents blogshops and fashion sites for their editorial value, checking out the latest fashion trends, as well as to get tips and advice.

“These sites are often quick to catch on to the latest trends, so they are a good reference point,” he said.

Asked if online stores would affect the revenue of retailers in the near future, Anton said, “It’s already affecting them. I think more people today are ordering online, and with the sign-up discounts that many online stores are providing, it is much more enticing.”

Convenience at your doorstep
Two-year-old startup Tate & Tonic brings the convenience of the online shopping experience to another level – personalisation for each customer.

Founder Matteo Sutto, 31, said when he first came to Singapore over two years ago, he found it very frustrating to shop in crowded malls.

“I come from Italy, and I like to wear nice clothes but the malls are always crowded and have a very limited selection," he said.

Previously employed by Zalora, Sutto leveraged on his knowledge of the fashion e-commerce market to come up with a new model.

When visitors go on the site, they provide their measurements as well as style preference. They can then have the items they select delivered to them in a box to try.

“They don’t pay for shipping, and they only pay for what they keep. We then return to collect the remaining items in the box from their place, so it is a hassle-free experience,” said Sutto.

He added that the service caters for male customers exclusively as there is a fast-growing market that is relatively underserved.

“There are less options for men to shop online, and I believe there’s a lot of room for growth in this area,” he said, adding that Tate & Tonic now has over 15,000 users since launching.

Getting the right fit

Not every site shares the same service as that of Tate & Tonic. As such, shopping online does have drawbacks, such as sizing issues.

“I bought shoes online once, and that was my first and last time.

“It’s really difficult to buy shoes online because getting the right size is almost impossible,” online shopper Yong said, adding that he returned the same pair of shoes twice and still didn’t get the perfect fit.

Unlike clothes where he can be more flexible, Yong said it’s important for shoes to fit well, because it would hurt his feet otherwise.

To this, co-founder of Marx B, an online shoe company in Singapore, Marcus Chow, 32, believes it’s all about building confidence.

“In the past, the idea of online shopping itself was daunting. But it’s all about educating the public.  I believe you can build the confidence of customers over time if you provide a service that is flexible enough to keep them assured," he said.

He added that the shoes on Marx B. use a standard shoe last (a mechanical form with a shape similar to the human foot) which means it is likely to fit most people. However, if the pair of shoes does not fit and no reasonable exchange can be provided, a refund is given.

Claiming to be the only mid to high-range local shoe brand in Singapore, Chow said there is a good appetite for the types of shoes they provide.

“About 10 years ago, the shoes men wore were quite standard, because there were not many options available. However, when given alternatives, we have seen that men are actually quite game try out new things.”