Four key takeaways from the 2013 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study show that consumers want more choices, convenience and control.
First the good news: E-commerce spending is still growing. Despite continued uncertainty about the overall economy, the latest data show that e-commerce retail sales in the United States grew 14 percent to a record $42.3 billion during the 2012 holiday season.
It's more important than ever to understand what drives online shopping behavior.
Now the not-so-good: Retailers without a comprehensive online strategy risk being left behind. It's more important than ever to understand what online shoppers want and the key factors that drive online purchase behavior. Melanie Alavi, a UPS marketing manager, offers insight into four key takeaways from the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper™ study, which was conducted by comScore and commissioned by UPS:
1. The mobile opportunity. Consumers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets to shop. In a typical three-month period, 50 percent of online shoppers who own a smartphone use it to buy online; meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of those with tablets use those to do the same. "You need to have a mobile strategy, especially when it comes to younger shoppers, because that's where your customers are," Alavi says.
Anywhere, anytime access is a major plus: "We found that smartphone shoppers tend to shop early in the day, while tablet users shop later at night, after 6 p.m. and especially from 9 p.m. to midnight," Alavi says. To capitalize on that, it's important to have an easy-to-use mobile app for your retail site (or at minimum, a mobile-optimized website). This makes it easy for consumers to shop and drives loyalty as well. In the study, 46 percent of consumers say they are less likely to comparison shop against other retailers when using a mobile app.
2. Tuned in to social media. "It's increasingly important to have a social media presence, especially on Facebook and Twitter," Alavi says. According to the study, 77 percent of online shoppers use Facebook and 26 percent are on Twitter. "Social media is a good and relatively low-cost way to engage with customers and build your brand," Alavi says. In addition to offering exclusive incentives for online "friends," you can use social media to promote in-store events, post updates or drive people to your website or latest blog posting.
3. More options for checkout and delivery. Three out of four online shoppers (76 percent) have added more to their carts to qualify for free shipping, according to the latest study. "Watch the competition and don't just offer free shipping in a ‘knee-jerk' way," Alavi says. "But it can increase your average cart volume, if you set the threshold properly. Be sure to test it and watch the numbers."
Free shipping ranks high, but it's not the only way to attract and keep online customers, Alavi says. "Giving shoppers more shipping options and greater control over delivery timing can make a big difference," Alavi says.
In the study, more than half of consumers want to see estimated shipping costs and delivery dates early in the process. And while most shoppers (78 percent) will choose the least expensive option most often, they expect to see faster options available, such as UPS 2nd Day Air®. "UPS can help with this. Online e-commerce solutions you can add to your site include a Rating API, a Tracking API and a Time in Transit API."
Offering a "ship to store" option is smart. In the study, 51 percent of online shoppers choose this option to avoid shipping costs. This option can pay off further because more than a third of those (38 percent) say they purchased other items while at the brick-and-mortar location. "This is another way retailers can capitalize on the omnichannel experience," Alavi says.
4. Easy returns or exchanges. In the study, 66 percent of shoppers look at a retailer's returns policy either before purchasing or both before and after making a purchase. And two out of three consumers will shop more with a retailer that offers a hassle-free returns policy.
"Free returns shipping, a no-questions-asked policy and a return label in the box are the top three things consumers look for," Alavi says. "You can also let consumers print their own returns label from your e-commerce site." To learn more about how UPS can help, visit UPS Returns® and check out UPS Returns Technology solutions.
For more details about the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper, download the white paper.