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Consumers continue to blend in-store, online shopping methods

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Online shopping
Social media and AI are becoming crucial in the shopper journey.

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers are embracing the omnichannel shopping journey.

Seventy-three percent of consumers blend online research, physical store visits and options such as buy-online-pickup-in-store or in-store returns before making purchase decisions, according to a new study from ShipStation and Retail Economics. The report noted that a "staggering" $448 billion in online sales across the United States and Canada are dependent on these physical touchpoints,  accounting for 41% of total online sales in these regions.

“Seamless integration across all these touchpoints – alongside an on-time, right-price product delivery – is no longer optional, but essential for survival,” said Al Ko, CEO of Auctane, parent company of ShipStation.

In other findings, social media and AI are becoming crucial in the shopper journey. A quarter of surveyed U.S. consumers were also open to using AI-powered chatbots to research products before making a purchase. Globally, consumers aged 45 and under are nearly four times more likely to report researching products on social media compared to older generations.

Other findings from the report are below.

•For shoppers, fast and free delivery is critical when making online purchases. Sixty-percent ofU.S. respondents expect free shipping to take two days or less, a speed only one-fourth of surveyed retailers in the U.S. and Canada currently provide. Over half of all surveyed retailers cite rising shipping costs as the main threat to their performance, and a net balance of 34% plan to increase their delivery charges in 2024, up from 28% a year ago.

•Eight-in-10 (80%) U.S. consumers surveyed prefer alternative return means to printing out a shipping label and dropping it off at a carrier. Having a parcel service pick up their return from their home, using third-party drop-off locations (such as kiosks or lockers), or visiting the physical store of the brand to make a return are all more appealing to consumers. Meanwhile, only a fifth (19%) of surveyed retailers offer out-of-home returns options.

“For retailers, the pressure to be everywhere their customers are has never been greater,” said   Ko. “Due to increased choice and tighter wallets, consumers are more selective about the brands they shop with and will settle for nothing less than a unified experience across websites, physical storefronts, marketplace channels and social media.”

  Consumer surveys were conducted by Retail Economics in November 2023 and include answers from a sample of more than 8,000 nationally representative consumers, additionally 800 Auctane customers were surveyed, across the U.K., U.S., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Canada and Australia.

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