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UPS Study Shows That Online Consumers Are Revolutionizing Retail

Online consumers are shaking up commerce, causing companies to redefine the store experience.

The fifth UPS “Pulse of the Online Shopper” study revealed that online consumers are shopping more with their smartphones and also demanding a more harmonized experience between digital and physical stores. Fifty-one percent of the study’s respondents made their purchases online this year, a 3 percent increase since 2015.

“This year’s UPS study revealed that 45 percent of online shoppers love the thrill of hunting for and finding great deals, and that physical stores continue to play an important role in that experience. The challenge is how to best engage with shoppers to fulfill their desires,” UPS chief marketing officer, Teresa Finley, said.

Traditional in-store shopping continues to shift to multi-channel shopping. Retailers are responding to the increased use of smartphones and applying that to customer demands. Seventy-three percent of online shoppers reported a better mobile experience this year. Social media also continues to influence shopping decisions. Twenty-three percent of respondents made purchases through social media sites in 2016.

Store concepts are also evolving due to more online consumers demanding easier transitions between digital and in-person purchasing opportunities. Cross-channel transactions are up and account for 38 percent of all purchases, while store-only purchases are down to 20 percent. With this in mind, retailers are figuring out how to balance shopping preferences. Fifty-eight percent of online consumers think it’s critical for retailers to have detailed product information, good photos of merchandise and professional reviews.

Online sales also amp up in-store traffic. Fifty percent of shoppers who buy online ship their items to a physical store for pick-up. Sixty percent of shoppers also prefer to return items in-store. Seventy-three percent of consumers prefer free shipping as well, and it’s the most important factor for customer satisfaction.

Although some online shoppers use their smartphones in-store (30 percent), more than half are neutral about in-store mobile messaging. Retailers are working on bringing together their apps and mobile messaging to satisfy customers and company performance.

“The industry is changing at an incredibly fast rate. Listening closely to what shoppers want and boldly trying new techniques can give retailers a competitive advantage in this very competitive industry. UPS is working with shoppers and retailers to provide a seamless, engaging experience that everyone will enjoy,” Finley said.