Better customer service is giving small boutiques and online shops a more devoted clientele than big-box stores, a recent survey found.

In a survey of 4,000 apparel shoppers by IBM Global Business Services, about a quarter of respondents said they would recommend specialty stores and online retailers, compared to just 13 percent for larger chain and discount stores.

Overall, shoppers rated a pleasant and easy shopping experience as the biggest draw for customers, followed by an always-fresh product selection.

On top of winning over more devoted customers, online clothing retailers also showed the highest potential for growth, with Internet sales currently the largest growth channel in apparel retail, the survey found.