Shoppers are waiting for approval from friends on instant message and social media before they purchase fashion items, research from Shopa has discovered.

Before buying clothes, women on average need two 'likes' from friends on social channels, while men surprisingly require four.

After turning to Facebook or Instagram 43% of consumers said they had discarded an outfit which received under ten 'likes', according to the survey of 2,000 UK adults.

Social media channels are also used for inspiration, with 43% of women using Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram to learn about fashion trends, while 38% of men follow celebrities for style advice.  

Nicky McShane, chief operating officer at Shopa, said: “This is an inherent trait that women have had for years, but it is interesting to see how men are now following suit, using social media to break down their masculine boundaries to explore the world of fashion."

Clothes shopping in store takes on average 16 minutes, but this doubles to 31 minutes when online shopping as consumers wait for approval from friends. Meanwhile 28% of shoppers are delayed for two hours while waiting for social approval when choosing an outfit on the high street and 33% spend a similar amount of time decided on whether or not to buy clothes online.

The most commonly shared fashion items are evening dresses, wedding outfits, tops and heeled shoes, while dull underwear, handbags and workwear are the least likely to receive likes on social platforms.

This sharing mentality is a shopping trend which underpins the business model of online social marketplace Shopa. Shopa is an online tool used by consumers to buy and share fashion products. Users are given rewards – worth 5% of the product’s price – each time a friend or follower buys a product they have recommended.

Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, behavioural psychologist, added: “These results are unsurprising as, although online shopping is becoming increasingly popular, many of us still rely on our friends’ approval when purchasing new clothes or accessories. 

“The ease of being able to share a visual representation of the look or style we’re trying to achieve makes it not only easier to reach out for validation, but indeed it also fits in with the norms of social networking; where acceptance of our choices is actively sought out. It’s not surprising therefore that some people are waiting up to two hours for that nod of approval before making a purchase."

Last week, research from Mintel predicted that sales of electrical goods will take a 29% share of online sales in 2015, inching past online fashion sales for the first time.

The market research predicts sales of electricals will add up to £12.6 billion, up from £10.7 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, clothing and footwear sales will hit £12.4 billion in 2015, up from £10.7 billion last year.

Total online retail sales are expected to hit £43.3 billion in 2015, making up 12.7% of all retail sales. Meanwhile, total annual online sales will rise by 64% to £71.2 billion in 2020, making up 18% of total retail sales, according to forecasts.