When It Comes to Clothes, Amazon Is Not The First Choice For Online Shoppers

Jun 7, 2018
Originally published on June 7, 2018 8:07 pm
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If you're buying something on the Internet, there is a good chance you're getting it from Amazon. A new poll by NPR and Marist College found a whopping 92 percent of online shoppers have made a purchase there. But they're not so interested in clothes and shoes. Only 20 percent of Amazon shoppers say they actually go to Amazon to buy their wardrobe. Julia Simon reports.

JULIA SIMON, BYLINE: New York is fashion central. Brands like H&M, Steve Madden, Levi's show off on flashing screens on Times Square. And these days, clothing and shoes are the top reasons people turn to e-commerce. But Amazon, the giant of e-commerce, is nowhere to be seen in Times Square. And our poll found even among Amazon shoppers, only a fifth say they rely on Amazon for clothes and shoes.

A block away in the fashion district, Didi Northway tells me she loves to buy clothes online. Recently she got a vintage blue and white polyester maxi dress on eBay. I ask her if she's ever bought clothes on Amazon.

DIDI NORTHWAY: Halloween costumes and T-shirts for my dogs.

SIMON: OK, T-shirts for your dogs and Halloween costumes.

NORTHWAY: Yeah.

SIMON: I guess that counts.

NORTHWAY: (Laughter).

SIMON: Then I ask her if she's bought shoes on Amazon. She says no.

But I should ask. Have you ever bought any shoes on zappos.com?

NORTHWAY: Oh, yes.

SIMON: Thing is, Zappos is owned by Amazon. And just like Zappos, Amazon owns clothing sites - Shopbop for women, East Dane for men. You might not know they're owned by Amazon, though. It's not conspicuous on the site. But Amazon has also created their own clothing labels which you can find on the site like Lark & Ro and Amazon Essentials.

Shoppers are buying basics from Amazon - men's jeans, women's bras. They do pretty well. That's according to research firm One Click Retail. What's missing? Retail experts say some people aren't browsing Amazon for clothes. And people like to do that when it comes to fashion. Elaine Kwon used to work for Amazon Fashion but now runs an e-commerce management and software firm, ‎Kwontified.

ELAINE KWON: Amazon is a wonderful place to shop if you know what you want. It has an incredible search algorithm. And most customers do come to the platform already having an idea of what they're looking for. Now, where Amazon may not be as strong is in the browse experience. I would like to pose a question. How many times have you gone to amazon.com and scrolled to the left side of the navigation and hovered over departments?

SIMON: Never.

(LAUGHTER)

KWON: Exactly.

SIMON: She's talking about the clothing, shoes and jewelry section on Amazon, which I had never visited before. But you can find Lacoste dresses and Anne Klein shoes there. Amazon is going after fashion shoppers. Last summer, Amazon announced a new try-before-you-buy service similar to Stitch Fix or Trunk Club. It's a way for Prime users to regularly get outfits delivered and then decide if they want to keep them or return them.

But a year after announcing Amazon Prime Wardrobe, it's still not available for all Prime users. Amazon didn't comment for this story. And I should mention they're one of NPR's financial backers. And today, Amazon announced a separate new push into the fashion sector. The Echo Look is a new kind of smart camera which can take pictures of outfits and offer fashion advice. Amazon says the gadget is on sale now to the public for 200 bucks.

I asked Kwon if she's bought clothing on Amazon. She said she bought a bunch of white shirts from different companies, including Amazon, but she returned the shirt from Amazon. Julia Simon, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.