Let’s take it back to 2007–pre-Zappos.

A man named Andy Dunn just cashed in his 401k and is working on getting funding for an online shopping startup for men that carries one thing: pants that fit really well.

10 years later, Bonobos is one of the most successful and recognizable mens clothing retailer online.

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Since then, a plethora of menswear sellers has sprung up online (and many have failed). Overall, the menswear market is growing at a faster rate than even women’s fashion–and retail giants like Amazon are taking note–hence the introduction of Buttoned Down.

Here’s what you need to know about the state of menswear in 2017 and beyond.

How Online Shopping for Men is Growing

You may not hear about it as much as women’s fashion news, but online menswear shopping is actually projected to grow faster than other ecommerce verticals, beating out even computers for the top spot.

According to data gathered by IBIS World and shared by Quartz, men’s average annual sales growth in a five-year span was logged at 17.4%.

screenshot-qz-com-2017-01-05-11-45-05

Boutique @ Ogilvy polled 1,232 American men aged 18+ and discovered they spent $85 per month on menswear (apparel and accessories)–about $10 more than the women’s monthly average.

How has this shift occured, and what’s driving the movement? Well, it’s all about the way men shop, and that looks more different now than it ever did.

A large part of this shift can be attributed to men’s fashion blogs, but it’s also driven by the way retailers design their user shopping experience online, as illustrated by ForeSee’s recent study on the intersection between CRX and menswear.

More men than ever are shopping online (one study showed that 40% of men 10-34 ‘would ideally buy everything online), and more online menswear retailers are upping their game to match shopping expectations.

All of this growth caught the attention of everybody’s favorite online retailer: Amazon.

Amazon’s Entry Into Menswear

The introduction of Buttoned Down–an Amazon-manufactured menswear line featuring basic dress shirts exclusively for Prime Members–is proof that Amazon’s been paying attention to every segment of retail. Even the segments that don’t get talked about quite as much.

eric-feinberg-menswear-discussion“This is one of the very few times Amazon has tried to reach out into their competitive market, and it’s a real reach for them–manufacturing and being on the hook for quality,” says Eric Feinberg, VP of Marketing at ForeSee, a Voice of Customer (VOC) company that uses a patented algorithmic approach to customer experience measurement.

“It’s great that they experimented.”

Will Amazon corner the online market on menswear starting with “every man’s favorite dress shirt?”

Feinberg doesn’t think so, at least for now.

His main concern is the quality of the Buttoned Down line, which doesn’t appeal to a wide segment of male shoppers hunting for stylish pieces that last.

“Based on the quality of these shirts, Amazon’s not targeting people who care about the cut, feel, and cloth of the shirt. They’re targeting men who don’t want to shop in a brick and mortar store.

menswear-amazon-buttoned-down

Entering a category is by no means equal to competing in a category. I’m not sure how they measure success in the Buttoned Down line, but I’m pretty sure they won’t be successful. The quality and fit are not competitive for the price.”

So now for the age-old (or at least 10 years old) question–should menswear brands be selling their products on Amazon, particularly now that Amazon’s building their own apparel brands up? 

There are 40+ featured menswear brands on the Amazon homepage that have embraced this massive online marketplace.

menswear brands on amazon

A sampling of the menswear brands on Amazon.

 

Feinberg doesn’t think it’s a good idea–particularly for specialty brands.

You give away any customer experience uniqueness you can earn from your customer when you sell on Amazon. You also lose customer data and the ability to market to them–it’s essentially a recipe for short term success and long term failure. Especially for new brands. It’s too price competitive and will wash out your brand value.”

How Men Shop Today

According to ForeSee’s data infographic based on both the UK and U.S., men reported being less satisfied by their customer experience while shopping than women.

screenshot-www-foresee-com-2017-01-05-11-34-36

 

In addition, male shoppers were also slightly less likely to recommend a website and come back to make future purchases.

 

menswear satisfaction level

 

Given the fact that male shoppers are supposedly shopping more like women, why are they still slightly less likely to recommend a store or claim they’re satisfied with their experience?

Well, it has a little to do with psychology and the shopping experience online, according to Feinberg.

“Ecommerce sites can move men up incrementally from that benchmark by improving the shopping experience, but generally, women are higher recommenders than men.”

Now, for the good news: The previous statistic is hiding a huge silver lining.

While the likelihood that men will recommend a particular store is lower, as shoppers, we know they spend more per month (as the Oglivy poll above showed).

In addition, ForeSee’s study showed that men actually convert at a higher percentage than women (27% vs. 40%) and have a higher value over time.

It’s the value over time that really keeps menswear retailers humming, Feinberg explains.

“Men convert at a higher percentage and spend more in each session. They’ll also come back and purchase what they like more routinely, whereas women are more likely to engage in comparison shopping. ”

mr-porter-one-of-the-top-performing-menswear-sites

Mr Porter, one of the top performing menswear sites.

The bottom line: When you’re marketing menswear, you should be aiming for lifetime customer value and loyalty, not just a quick one-time sale.

“There’s earned loyalty and bought loyalty,” says Feinberg. “Bought loyalty is coupon-driven, instant gratification for a retailer–it feels good. Earned loyalty results in lifetime value, but it takes longer. It requires more content, nurturing, education, and differentiation.”

How to Gain Loyal Menswear Shoppers

No need to reinvent the wheel–email’s not dead, especially for retailers hoping to get the attention of male shoppers.

“The top way apparel shoppers like retailers to communicate with them is via email,” says Feinberg. “And the best way for menswear retailers to connect with male shoppers is to customize their email campaigns.”

According to Campaign Monitor, common personalization tactics include:

  • Inserting a subscriber’s name in the subject line
  • Changing the content of the email based on the subscriber’s gender (a must)
  • Altering content based on location or any other data point about your customer

 

The key here isn’t to just throw footballs and other stereotypical American male symbols into your emails and across marketing campaigns, Feinberg emphasizes. It’s about being in tune with your individual male shoppers, and it should never be uniform.

If your second resort is to send weekly discounts, you should reconsider  (unless your audience happens to be budget conscious).

“Women are motivated by coupons over content, by and large. For men, it’s content over coupons,” says Feinberg.

In general, men are less motivated by discounts, and more by content. Less by clearance deals, and more by word of mouth.

And that includes compelling Kickstarter campaigns like Ministry of Supply’s “coffee socks” campaign, which garnered $204,601 from 3,150 backers. Yep, just for socks.

menswear-socks-by-ministry-of-supply

Sure, it’s more complicated to target male shoppers–they have distinct modes of shopping that have dramatically changed in the last few years, and it can be hard to earn their loyalty.

But at the end of the day, it could pay off in higher AOVs for a customer’s lifetime–and that’s what menswear retailers have to look forward to.

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About the AuthorLeanna graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University (NJ) in 2012 with a BA in Creative Writing and lived in NYC for two years. In 2014, she returned to her home state of California where she enjoys eating too many fish tacos, skipping winter, and writing quality web content for CPC Strategy. Follow her on Twitter @slylikeasmeagol. See all posts by this author here.