UPS Global Pulse of the Online Shopper study highlights myriad consumer preferences

The survey is based on feedback from a comScore survey of more than 18,000 global online shoppers and was issued over the first three quarters of 2017. UPS said this study evaluated consumer shopping habits from pre-purchase to post-delivery, with respondents having made a minimum of two online purchases over a three-month timeframe.

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As online shopping becomes more sophisticated and prevalent, coming with that is an influx of increased purchasing activity in various ways, including consumers buying more good online from both marketplaces and international retailers, as well as increasing their usage of digital devices for purchases along with different preferences for delivery.

Those are some of the key takeaways of the global issued this week by UPS and . The survey is based on feedback from a comScore survey of more than 18,000 global online shoppers and was issued over the first three quarters of 2017. UPS said this study evaluated consumer shopping habits from pre-purchase to post-delivery, with respondents having made a minimum of two online purchases over a three-month timeframe.  

“Understanding shoppers and meeting their demands is crucial in this rapidly changing landscape,” said , chief commercial officer for UPS, in a statement. “To stand out, smart companies must recognize that, with competition now coming from around the world, consumers want different ways to make purchases, more convenient ways to receive them and innovative experiences from start to finish.”

Perhaps the most telling statistic included in the study was that in 2017 52% of non-grocery purchases were made online. That is slightly ahead of 2016’s 51%, as well as the 47% and 48% recorded in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

One key focus area of the study centered on expectations on order time to be eligible for next-day shipping and same-day shipping.

Placing online orders earlier in the day to be eligible for next-day shipping was prevalent among U.S.-based consumers compared to other locales, with 19% indicating orders need to be placed by noon and another 45% between 1-4 p, and 36% noting they think packages should be eligible for next-day shipping if they place their orders in the 5-9 p.m. window. Looking at the 5-9 p.m. window, the study found that every other region had a higher percentage of consumers shipping in the 5-9 p.m. window, including: Asia at 73%, Europe at 50%, Canada at 39% Mexico at 59%, and Brazil at 51%.

And the results were somewhat similar for expectations on order time to be eligible for same-day shipping, with 61% of U.S. consumers saying they place their orders by noon. This far outpaced Asia at 19% but other locales like Europe (55%), Canada (63%), and Brazil (52%) were in close proximity. And with the exception of Asia at 64%, the 5-9 p.m. window for same-day shipping eligibility was at 38% or lower across the board.

“This question measures the consumers’ perception of when ordered need to be made to qualify for these shipping methods,” said Sarah Baker, research lead, Survey Insights, for comScore.

“Shoppers reported a range of times, but, the majority of shoppers in the U.S. think that the cutoff for these options is earlier in the day (noon for same-day and 5 p.m. for next day). This perception is likely based on their understanding of retailer’s policies and their personal experiences.”   

Returns of online purchases, regarding consumers shipping packages back to a retailer or a physical store, each saw some variation by region. In the U.S., 75% of consumers shipped to a retailer and another 45% returned to a physical store. On the other end, Mexican consumers were the least likely to return an item.

The study indicated that among those who prefer to ship returns back to retailers, ease and free return shipping were the top drivers for this preference regardless of geography.

Looking at consumer satisfaction with the in-store shopping experience, specifically shipping online orders to stores, the study found there is value in physical stores in all regions, with satisfaction levels generally high across the board.

In the U.S., 65% of consumers indicated they were satisfied with the in-store shopping experience, with Mexico and Asia rounding out the top three at 72% and 66%, respectively. As for consumers electing to make additional purchases while in stores, Mexico led the way at 65%, with Asia next at 60%.

Even though these numbers can be viewed as encouraging, the study found that satisfaction with the in-store shopping experience remains lower than the satisfaction with the overall online shopping experience, while leaving room for improving the in-store experience.

As for how the in-store experience can be improved, , UPS Director of Retail Marketing Strategy, said that one key component is making sure the physical store remains relevant by providing an inspiring and effective shipping experience.

Other areas which are beneficial, according to DeJianne, are:

  • delivering a constant experience and guaranteeing parity across all retail channels to provide brand consistency and build customer satisfaction;
  • offering flexible delivery options like in-store pickup, alternate delivery locations, and expedited delivery to meet consumers’ growing preference for delivery items;
  • empowering the shopper to provide convenient resources for consumers to get details on products through in-store technologies and a robust mobile shopping experience; and
  • exploring and incorporating new technologies like robots and chatbots for retailers to enhance the customer experience, coupled with online shoppers saying they want technology that enables rewarding, personalized experiences both online and in store

Not surprisingly, the percentage of purchases made by consumers at a marketplace were high across the board, with the U.S. at 96%, Asia at 98%, Europe at 96%, Canada at 96%, and Mexico at 99%.

Better prices was the main reason for these high levels, ranging between Canada’s 61% and Europe’s 67%, and free and discounted shipping was also in the mix, with the U.S. at 55%, and Mexico and Canada at 57% and 51%, respectively. Asia was at 42% and Europe was at 41%. Broader selection within any product category also received attention with regions varying between 28% and 43%.

With such a high level of purchases made at a marketplace, it puts retailers in a position in which they need to augment their online marketplaces to be more competitive and grab market share.

One way in which they can do so, according to UPS’s DeJianne, is to leverage services like from UPS, a technology solution that lets merchants view, process and ship orders from multiple e-commerce marketplaces and web stores using a single online tool. Marketplace Shipping benefits online sellers by saving time in their order processing, reducing cost from eliminating the need to purchase third- party software programs and benefiting from what the UPS spokeswoman called a “vast array of service options,” including reliable time-guaranteed deliveries and enhanced visibility tools that come from using the UPS network.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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