News Feature | November 21, 2017

New UPS Study Highlights Online Shoppers' Expectations

Walmart & Sam's Club eCommerce Site Upgrades

Return policies, delivery options, and exceptional customer service all top the list.

Exceptional customer service, flexible delivery options, and optimized returns policies are among the top expectations for today’s online shoppers. This is according to the fifth and final volume in the five-part series of the 2017 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper™ study, “Retail Fundamentals,” which examines what online shoppers want and expect in customer service, delivery and returns.

According to the Pulse of the Online Shopper survey, retail today is facing a changing landscape where online shoppers are turning more to international retailers, doing more purchasing on mobile devices, and shopping more frequently on marketplaces in an effort to find better prices, unique products and increased convenience. Deloitte has stated that retail is poised to see a new digital tipping point in 2017 as ecommerce continues on its relentless growth trajectory, driven by a powerful omnichannel retailing approach. And while the growth of ecommerce has meant real challenges for brick-and-mortar, with record numbers of physical store closing projected in 2017, it also has meant a redirection and repurposing of those physical spaces through the introduction of new technologies in the omnichannel world.

The report found that online shoppers will only turn to digital devices more frequently in the future, as they have become more comfortable using mobile devices to research and buy products online, leading them to spend more time and money in the m-commerce market. And as retailers develop their omnichannel resources to facilitate direct-to-consumer purchasing across all channels, shoppers are taking advantage of these opportunities. Ultimately, the Retail Fundamentals report concludes that “Delivering a stellar customer experience from point of sale to post-purchase across all channels is required to thrive in the competitive world of retail.”

The study found:

  • Customer Services Counts. Exceptional customer service is more important than ever and top-performing retailers do all they can to leverage service features to differentiate their brand. These standards include logistics, which play an increasingly important role in the customer experience as shoppers now demand faster shipping, flexibly delivery options, and hassle-free returns policies.  The study states, “A winning retail model provides outstanding service with delivery superiority and features choice as the guiding principle throughout the shopping experience.”
  • The Logistically Minded. According to the study, the best retail players are expanding service options and delivery capabilities to meet customer demands and remain competitive.
  • Returns Realigned. Returns processes and policies are top of mind for omnichannel shoppers prior to making a purchase. Recognizing this factor in the overall shopping experience, top retailers are implementing new processes and policies that have made returns simpler and easier. Discover shopper behavior around online returns and their preferences for a satisfying and effective customer experience.   

    The survey revealed that returns are an important component of the online shopping experience, with 68 percent saying they review a returns policy before making a purchase, while 75 percent have shipped back an online purchase back to a retailer (up 7 points since last year), and 62 percent of online shoppers are satisfied with the ease of shipping back a return.

The study also found that online shoppers are gravitating to self-serve customer service options, with over half ( 55 percent) saying that an e-mail option important ,45 percent wanting onsite Q&A, and45 percent finding onsite FAQ important.

However, even as ecommerce grows, the survey demonstrates that the store remains important. Of those surveyed, 50 percent have used ship-to-store, 44 percent have made an additional purchase while picking up an online purchase, and 58 percent prefer to return items to a physical store.

Meanwhile, interest in alternative delivery locations is growing, with 52 percent of respondents saying theyare interested in shipping to alternate locations (that percentage jumped to 64 percent of millennials and smartphone purchasers), and 30 percent of online orders are already delivered to alternate locations.

The sixth annual UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study analyzes consumer shopping behaviors from pre-purchase to post-delivery. The study was fielded by comScore, Inc. in Q1 2017, and was based on the input of more than 5,189 qualified comScore panelists who had made a minimum of two online purchases in a typical three-month period. UPS worked with Astound Commerce, Inc., to develop questions, conduct analysis, and define retailer recommendations for the study.

The study provides several important takeaways for retailers to successfully address the dynamic online shopping experience and demands of future shoppers. They include:

  • Make service a company priority.
  • Engage customers across multiple channels.
  • Offer flexible delivery options.
  • Review return policies.
  • Focus on efficiency.