An increasing number of online shoppers are shopping via smartphone and shopping at online marketplaces, while about half already have tried a ship-to-store option for an online purchase, according to the sixth annual UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Study, discussed this week at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago by United Parcel Service and research provider comScore.
About 97% of “avid” online shoppers (those who make seven or more purchases online in a three-month period) made purchases on marketplace sites within the last year, up from 85% a year earlier. Also, 48% of smartphone users surveyed have made a purchase through their phones within the last year, up from 44% in 2016.
Of the 50% who have used ship-to-store service within the last year, about 44% of those made additional purchases in-store when they arrived to pick up their earlier purchases. About 41% further added that they plan to use ship-to-store more often in the next year.
As brick-and-mortar department stores look to reinvent themselves, online marketplaces have successfully exploited the department store business model online, with an important addition: the endless aisle. It's no surprise that so many frequent online shoppers now turn to marketplaces, both to search and to shop.
The slow, but persistent, rise of buying via smartphone also is not much of a surprise. And although many in the industry would love to see that percentage move much higher much more quickly, mobile web user experience could still be holding them back.
More mobile shoppers are turning to apps because the overall in-app experience tends to be better and more optimized to the mobile format than websites. As Louis DeJianne, director of consumer goods, apparel and retail at UPS, told Retail Dive at IRCE, "If customers are shopping on a site on mobile and reach a point where it's clear it's not mobile-enabled, they will abandon a purchase."
While shoppers continue to get more comfortable purchasing via mobile, and have high standards for the mobile shopping experience, one thing they are not doing is using mobile payment platforms to pay for their purchases. DeJianne noted only 28% of those surveyed had done so, roughly the same percentage as in 2016. He suggested that to boost that number, retailers may need to start targeting mobile users while they are in-store to promote mobile payment as an option.
Meanwhile, customers' embrace of ship-to-store is good news for UPS, which can be left out of the logistics equation when retailers operate their own enterprise-wide networks allowing customers to buy online and pick up in store. Such networks don't offer a great deal of visibility across multiple stores or the ability to quickly ship between stores, DeJianne said.
Giving customers a ship-to-store option provides them with pick-up flexibility and means they are less likely to be disappointed when they try to buy online and pick up in-store only to find the item is not available at the store closest to them. It's no wonder, then, that more customers plan to use ship-to-store in the future. And with the likelihood that these customers will buy more in-store when they come in to get their original purchase, retailers should be happy to oblige.