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UPS: Online shoppers shift purchase habits


Bob Dylan sang “The Times They Are A Changin’” more than 50 years ago, but the sentiment is very current in the world of digital commerce.

According to the fifth annual UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, 51% of all purchases made by respondents were made online. This is up from 48% in 2015 and the first time in the study’s five-year history that figure went above 50%. The study is based on a comScore survey of more than 5,000 U.S. online shoppers.

Considering this result, it is not too surprising that 17% of consumers plan to shop less in store, shifting time to their electronic devices. The use of smartphones is up 10 percentage points to 77% during the past two years, and respondents report a better mobile experience with satisfaction up eight percentage points to 73% since 2015.

Social media is also growing in importance for online shoppers. Thirty-four percent of respondents said social media had influenced their purchase decisions, up from 25% the prior year, and 23% said they had made purchases through social media sites.

While store-only purchases and searches declined to 20% of all respondent purchases from 22% the prior year, the store remains important to online shoppers. Cross-channel transactions, which refer to purchases using in-store and at least one online channel, now account for 38% of all purchases (up two points). Fifty-eight percent of respondents find online access to store inventory important.

Online sales drive significant in-store traffic. Half of shoppers who buy online, ship to a physical store. Of these, 46% make additional purchases while picking up their items. A majority of shoppers (60%) also prefer to return items to a store, at which time 70% of them make additional purchases. Yet only 36% of shoppers say they experience helpful associates when returning items to a store.

Online shoppers also report they are using their smartphones in-store for a full range of actions. Nearly 30% of shoppers look up product reviews (29%), read product details (28%), compare prices (27%), and access coupons for in-store redemption (27%) regularly (often or most of the time).

Just 31% of shoppers are aware of in-store beacons. A quarter (26%) of smartphone users are receptive to in-store mobile messaging with Urban shoppers (37%) and millennials (36%) being even more receptive. However, more than four in 10 smartphone users are neutral toward the idea of in-store mobile messaging.

Looking at online purchases, the study finds free shipping continues to be the most important factor driving customer satisfaction when checking out online (73%), although consumers are willing to pay a premium for faster delivery. Half of shoppers (50%) would pay for faster shipping for personal reasons, such as birthdays and holidays.

Home delivery is still the preferred location to receive packages, although more consumers are embracing alternate delivery locations. Preference for alternate delivery locations grew nine points (to 35%) in the last two years. More than half of shoppers are interested in an alternate delivery location with extended hours and lower fees.

Other notable findings include:

· 45% of online shoppers love the thrill of hunting for and finding great deals.

· One in six shoppers say they have visited showrooms without inventory. These locations are finding some initial success with millennials, women and urban shoppers.

· Thirty-five percent of online shoppers now begin their searches at marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.

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