In a massive, 50-page white paper, researchers at United Parcel Service and Astound Commerce concluded that shoppers want a “unified shopping experience” that often includes use of their mobile device and requires retailers to offer a consistency — from product pricing and promotions to shipping and fulfillment.
The authors of the report said “despite all of the discussion in the industry about multiple channels and distinct branding, creating a single brand experience still remains a work in progress for most retailers.”
Authors of the report stressed the need for companies to assess their ability to meet consumer expectations on several measures. “To attract consumers both online and in store, quality is key,” the report stated. “Research shows about half of shoppers select a retailer based on the quality of the channel experience, particularly for the web and store. With the continued popularity of technology among savvy consumers, mobile web and app experiences are gaining ground and have become a factor for around one-third of shoppers.”
Aside from quality, research conducted by UPS and Astound Commerce showed that convenience is also essential in determining the success of a consumer’s experience with a retail brand. “Along with a quality experience, consumers are also looking for quicker and easier ways to find and receive the goods they need,” UPS said. “Inventory transparency, pickup of online orders in store, and same-day store delivery are ‘always’ reasons for about one in three shoppers to choose a particular retailer. These tools have become staples of the most sophisticated retailers but are tactics that smaller retailers must consider to compete on an even playing field.”
In UPS’ “Pulse of the Online Shopper” study, analysts at the company noted that ship to store was a popular way to offer a more convenient experience. The study showed at 50 percent of consumers have used buy online and ship to store, “and almost half who have done so have made additional purchases during that pickup,” the company said, adding that its research also revealed that 35 percent of shoppers would choose ship-to-store to qualify for free shipping.”
Alternative pickup locations — with extended hours — was also of interest with consumers, as long as the shipping fees were less expensive. “Urban shoppers and Millennials in particular are interested in this option,” authors of the report said. “Once again, convenience is a factor as shoppers look to accommodate their busy schedules.”
For its part, UPS offers a “UPS Access Point” network that can meet this need. The network has 26,000 locations around the globe with 9,000 expected to be in the U.S. by the end of the year.
Other key findings of the report include higher satisfaction of online shopping experiences versus in-store ones, and a strong preference for using mobile devices. Researchers of the report described mobile devices as the “connector to the store.”
“While shoppers have become more comfortable making purchases on their smartphones, they also are increasingly using mobile to connect to stores,” the report stated. “Two in three have located stores or looked up store-related information. And more than half have checked a retailer’s ad, previewed an offer based on location, or checked store inventory. Shoppers enjoy the convenience of having all of this information in the palm of their hand, and retailers need to ensure their online sites and apps are optimized to reach these desired consumers.”