Tech-savvy shoppers leading a retail revolution

10 Jun '16
5 min read

A retail revolution is being led by avid online shoppers in the US, who make two or more purchases online in a typical three-month period, says logistics major UPS. These consumers are shopping more with their smartphones and demanding a more seamless experience between virtual and physical stores, according to the fifth annual UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study.

This is the first time in the study's five-year history that more than 50 per cent (51 per cent) of all purchases made by respondents are made online, up from 48 per cent in 2015.

“Consumers are skilled at using technology to their advantage and thrive on gathering information when shopping,” said Teresa Finley, Chief Marketing Officer at UPS. “This year's UPS study revealed that 45 per cent of online shoppers love the thrill of hunting for and finding great deals, and that physical stores continue to play an important role in that experience. The challenge is how to best engage with shoppers to fulfill their desires.”

The study found that the shift from traditional in-store shopping to shopping with multiple channels continues. Seventeen per cent of consumers plan to shop less in store, shifting time to their electronic devices.

The use of smartphones is up 10 points (to 77 per cent) over the past two years, and retailers are responding. Online shoppers report a better mobile experience with satisfaction up eight points (to 73 per cent) since last year.

Social media's influence on purchasing decisions is up nine points (to 34 per cent) in the last year with nearly a quarter of respondents (23 per cent) having made purchases through social media sites.

Some traditional online retailers are experimenting with showrooms without inventory to provide consumers with the opportunity to examine products at a physical location before buying them online. One in six shoppers say they have visited such retailers. These locations are finding some initial success with millennials, women and urban shoppers.

While marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay are well-established shopping resources, consumers are turning to them earlier to find the best deals. Thirty-five per cent of online shoppers now begin their searches at marketplaces.

Cross-channel transactions, which refer to purchases using in-store and at least one online channel, now account for 38 per cent of all purchases (up 2 points). Store-only searches and purchases declined by two points (to 20 per cent). Retailers must create seamless experiences that resonate with how their customers want to shop. Providing detailed product information with good photography, professional and peer reviews, and online access to store inventory (58 per cent find it important) are critical.

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