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Simplified e-commerce and returns, sustainability among consumer needs

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Online shopping
A large majority (84%) of consumers said they will start their buying journey online.

With the holiday season fast approaching, retailers are looking to improve their e-commerce operations to meet consumer needs.

According to a new study of consumers and retail executives by global supply chain omnichannel commerce firm Manhattan Associates, nearly six-in-10 U.S. retailers (57%) are connecting their physical and digital operations with the goal of offering customers the ability to buy online and return in-store (compared to 54% globally). Fewer U.S. retailers (28%; compared to 38% globally) are connecting these operations to be able to check inventory availability across store locations.

A large majority (84%) of consumers said they will start their buying journey online, compared to 82% in 2022). However, only 16% (17% in 2022) of retailers reported that their organization’s in-store and online operations continue to run as separate functions, signaling that while more retailers are offering seamless shopping experiences compared to last year, there is still room for improvement.

In terms of how consumers prefer to engage with retailers before and after buying a product, overall, email (47%) remains the preferred engagement channel, followed by direct in-person contact with the store team (43%). Social media is now the preferred channel of engagement for four in ten (40%) consumers, with this preference more likely amongst younger consumers, peaking with the age group 25-34 at 55%.

Sustainability continues to be a hot-button issue for retailers and consumers alike. Nearly half (49%) of retailer respondents said they are seeking to improve the sustainability of their returns operations, while only 35% (36% globally) of customers care about the impact on the environment while choosing a delivery option.

More than half (55%) of 18–24-year-olds reported sustainability/environmental factors as a top or important consideration for them. Close to 20% (17%) of the 24-35 age bracket went further still and said they would actively avoid retailers if they were not environmentally conscious, compared to only 10% of those 55-years-old and older saying they would boycott these same brands.

“The future of our planet is not something that we can or should be forced to compromise on as consumers or retailers, yet clearly, in the current economic climate, affordability is taking priority over sustainability,” said Henri Seroux, SVP EMEA at Manhattan Associates. “This year’s research highlights how important unification across omnichannel commerce and supply chain is, as an avenue to lessen the economic burden on consumers, but also, as a way to address the longer-term environmental impact unchecked consumerism is having on our planet,”

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