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THE RETAIL PERSPECTIVE Men shop very differently from women online and require a completely new approach

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Men and women shop for clothes in a very different way online.

Women love choice; men want to make the right choice. Women are happy to scroll through hundreds of different products while filling up their online basket. They will buy five or six items knowing full well they will try them on at home and arrive at three that they like. Men want to get it right first time and will do anything to avoid returning an item: buying a belt if their trousers are too tight, going on a diet if they are too loose.

Look at the stats. Women return 40% of clothes they buy online; men just 20%. How else do the sexes differ? Men make their choices much more quickly. And they want help in making the right choice. Basically they want the site to do the work for them and tell them how they will look good: creating a look for them so they can go back to watching football, tinkering with their bike, playing computer games, going down the pub – doing all the things that men really want to do instead of shopping.

Their aim is mainly to pass the pub test. They want to look sufficiently good that they won’t get the mickey taken out of them by their mates when they are down the pub. If a man passes the ‘pub test’, the chances are women will like his wardrobe, too. Men have changed a lot in the last 15 years. We know this from the growth in grooming – they are more likely to go to the gym, moisturise and care about their appearance. Men today are much less brand loyal – it is not just about having the right logo.

So what do retailers need to do to encourage men to buy from them? You need to give men permission to buy from your site. Men like to be ‘part’ of something. Take a pair of Converse trainers – they can be bought for exactly the same price from Sports Direct or Selfridges. With one you get the famous yellow bag, the other you get a bag you might want to hide from your mates if you bump into them in the street. Having the yellow bag makes you part of something.

How else can etailers engender loyalty? You need to cater for men’s whole lifestyle: the books they read, the bikes they ride, the things they are interested in. You are giving them permission to like what is on your site. You need to in touch with the latest trends – but not be ‘too’ in touch.

It can be as dangerous to go too early as it is to go too late. The sites which set the new trends are invariably not the ones which profit from them. Take deck shoes – a few years ago a lot of firms made a lot of money from this boom. But it wasn’t the ones which first set the trend three years earlier – it was the brands which latched on to deck shoes far later when everyone was wearing them.

Price clearly is crucial. Again here men are very different from women. A woman will splash out £300 on the must-have item from this season’s collection knowing full well it will be obsolete in a year’s time. Men are much more circumspect: they will only spend £300 on a ‘classic’, a jacket or coat that they can wear for up to 12 years.

So just how idle is modern man? He’s not idle at all when it comes to his career, his relationships and his hobbies – but he is very idle when it comes to shopping. Men spend no more time shopping for clothes than they did in the Fifties. In fact, with advent of internet shopping, they spend less time.

We like to think we have created a site for just this 20something man. I built up ASOS menswear from scratch into a £200 million a year operation in just eight years. I was itching to go it alone and felt that there was a gap in the market for an online brand solely dedicated to young menswear. All the big etailers have menswear sections on their sites but we are the only independent etailer in the UK wholly dedicated to young menswear. From my previous experience, I know men love shopping online.

I think combines all the best elements of where I have worked before – and lots of fantastic new ones. Growth has been phenomenal and we are about to enter our third round of funding. We think we have created something special – a site that makes all the important choices for him modern man; a site specifically catering for The Idle Man.

Oliver Tezcan is CEO and founder of

If you run an ecommerce or multichannel website and have a point of view you’d like to share in The Retail Perspective occasional column, get in touch by emailing chloe at internetretailing dot net.

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