Earlier this year 5,000 U.S. consumers were surveyed. The results indicate consumers plan to research and purchase more frequently using their mobile devices, they are influenced by social media, and free shipping continues to drive purchasing decisions.
Shopping Small and Local
New in this year’s study, most consumers (93%) shop at small retailers:
• 61 percent shopped at these locations because they offer unique products
• 49 percent couldn't find what they needed from traditional stores
• 40 percent wanted to support the small business community
In addition, 40 percent of consumers have purchased from retailers based outside the U.S., with nearly half (49 percent) reporting they did so to find better prices, and 35 percent said they wanted items that couldn’t be found in U.S. stores.
Online shoppers frequently change retail channels during their shopping experience. Better prices (57 percent) and selection (49 percent) are the top reasons for purchasing online after researching an item in-store. Nearly half (48 percent) of online shoppers have used ship-to-store in the past year, and 45 percent of those consumers made an additional purchase when picking up their online purchase.
When a purchase is made online from a retailer that has an online and physical store, 39 percent of consumers who make returns prefer to ship the product back while 61 percent prefer to return the item to the store. When making an in-store return, 70 percent purchase an additional item compared to only 42 percent who make a new purchase while processing an online return.
Respondents said they continue to use personal computers to shop and compare prices, and complement their use as they become more comfortable using mobile technology: 41 percent use their smartphone for research, while 30 percent make purchases. Online shoppers appreciate the convenience of smartphones on-the-go and in-store. Smartphone users project making more purchases on their device in the next year.
Retailers need to continue to advance their mobile platforms, as 38 percent who have a mobile device but do not use it to make purchases said product images are not large or clear enough, and 30 percent said it's hard to compare products.
Many consumers connect to shopping activities through social media with 43 percent reporting they discover new products on social media sites. Facebook is the most influential channel but shoppers also embrace visually-oriented sites such as Pinterest.
Retail continues to evolve as some online shoppers consider using mobile technologies in store: 33 percent find electronic shelf labels appealing, 29 percent said they will consider mobile checkout, and 27 percent said they are open to using touch screens to receive information, make purchases or arrange deliveries.
Free shipping remains the most important option during checkout according to 77 percent of online shoppers. More than half (60 percent) have added items to their cart to qualify for free shipping.
The study provides insight to help retailers increase sales – 48 percent of online shoppers said they ship items to the store, with 45 percent of those saying they made additional purchases when picking up their orders.
According to the report, only 62 percent of consumers are satisfied with the online returns process: 67 percent review a retailer's return policy before making a purchase, 66 percent want free return shipping, 58 percent want a hassle-free "no questions asked" return policy, and 47 percent want an easy-to-print return label.
Compared to last year's study, more consumers are open to alternate delivery options. In 2014, 26 percent said they prefer to have packages delivered to locations other than their home, this year it rose to 33 percent.
When not at home to sign for a package, 32 percent want it shipped to another convenient retail location.
"The future of retail is driven by ever increasingly sophisticated and savvy shoppers who research at home and in a store, but more are turning to mobile as capabilities improve for online product display and promotion," said Alan Gershenhorn, UPS executive vice president and chief commercial officer. "They also want more flexibility and alternate delivery options."
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