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UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper White Paper

Photo of a stylish woman holding a mobile phone while gazing into a storefront window.

Download the 2016 study now

Download the 2019 report now

Today's tech-savvy shoppers are transforming the retail landscape by demanding what many companies struggle to deliver-innovation and excellence across all channels. The fifth annual UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper™ Study, developed in partnership with comScore and the e-tailing group, examines the motivations of today's shoppers and delivers insights that can help retailers exploit unparalleled opportunities and meet unprecedented challenges.

Thriving in tumultuous times

Every retail organization struggles with how to remain profitable while striving to reach customers across channels amid ever-evolving technologies and rising expectations. With digital and brick-and-mortar experiences permanently blurred and no universal template for success to follow, many retailers are faced with the overwhelming task of developing seamless experiences across the board. 

This report examines these tumultuous times and offers insights on behaviors, expectations, customer service and logistics that companies can leverage to create a competitive advantage.

Key Takeaways

Shoppers are insisting on smart innovation, exemplary channel experiences and flawless fundamentals. The research uncovers four key takeaways:

Evolved shoppers

Shoppers are taking more and more control of their retail experience. Two groups are forcing retailers to act as never before, Power Shoppers and Millennial Marvels. Savvy and strategic across all channels, the Power Shopper's digital expertise has real financial implications for retailers. Engaging smartly using new technologies and customer service conveniences yields sales, loyalty and social media currency. As first-generation digital natives, Millennial Marvels are having a profound technological impact on retailers. Their eagerness and prowess for all things digital has retailers striving to understand the implications and cultivate lifetime relationships.  

Shiny new objects

Consumer infatuation with everything new invites innovation and provides a natural audience for testing digital possibilities. How to react to and optimize new technologies, new markets and new business models should be in every retailer’s crosshairs. Exciting technologies like smartwatches, connected TVs, wearables and smartphones open all kinds of possibilities for delivering ultimate convenience. New markets and surprising data on how shoppers find new products can help retailers understand and reach new audiences. New models of selling—think showrooms and curated/subscription services—challenge retailers to keep pushing the envelope.  

Channel dynamics

Mobile devices have indelibly altered the shopping landscape, changing how we research, purchase and transact business across channels. Mobile phones remain firmly entrenched in our shopping DNA because of their utility and convenience in and out of stores. As behaviors continue to shift, retailers are being challenged to reach shoppers by reimagining stores in new and exciting ways. Retailers must react as store roles change; for some, stores may embody the brand, while other stores may serve an experiential role and pickup destination. Social media is coming on strong as a driver of sales, and the influence of “social butterflies” is making it a solid growth platform.

The ready retailer

Retailers not ready to step up their game will fall behind. Flawless fundamentals—flexible delivery choices, more control and more convenience—are expected every step of the way. Retailers can also expect shoppers to notice and appreciate progress within today’s new logistics reality, including improved product searches, expanded retail content, optimized product selection, upgraded return experiences and more self-service options. Retailers who embrace the control and flexibility that customers covet will find growing levels of satisfaction from core tech-savvy audiences.

Foundational Trends

The shopping report also identifies three foundational digital trends that impact retail environments across the board:

Digital fuels future growth. Shoppers are increasingly shifting their purchases and transactions to a digital retail environment. The in-store experience has yielded its preeminence to desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet shoppers, with smartphones and tablets showing the highest growth.

Smartphones are a driving force in shopping. More smartphone use means retailers must react by optimizing their mobile retail experiences, even if the ultimate sale is completed elsewhere. As satisfaction with mobile shopping improves, retailers can expect to see even faster growth.

Cross channel purchases growing. Using multiple channels to purchase is on the rise, whether it's researching online and buying in store or vice versa. Retailers must react by valuing and optimizing all channels and purchase paths for evolved shoppers.

Download the 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper™ study now

Download the latest 2019 report here

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