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Ecommerce needs to up its game, says UPS

Jun 10, 20163 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMobileMobile Apps

Shoppers want ecommerce, and not just any ecommerce. That means retailers need to incorporate more technology or risk losing their business.

Retailers have to invest in digital tools such as inventory transparency if they want to retain customers, says shipper UPS in its new report on online shopping.

If they don’t, fickle “shoppers will likely go elsewhere to more efficiently meet their needs,” the company says.

UPS found that most online shoppers (58 percent) want to see a retailer’s inventory online while they are shopping, and 20 percent will check inventory status at alternate locations or on a retailer’s website when in the store.

That’s just one of the behavior changes as shopping online displaces classic retail shopping. Over half of people (51 percent) now make non-grocery purchases electronically. That’s up from 48 percent last year. And as they do, they’re getting more sophisticated.

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Self-service and web-based tools are in demand, even though many outlets don’t have them. Again, retailers should be concerned if they’re one of the 55 percent that has omitted newer customer service instruments.

“Today’s shoppers, especially Millennials and Power Shoppers, often prefer to take matters into their own hands when it comes to customer service,” UPS says in the survey.

Forty percent want on-site questions and answers, and 21 percent want video FAQs via YouTube or other media providers. Co-browsing, where customer service shares the desktop with the customer, is even surfacing as a demand, at 21 percent.

The need for better logistics data is also apparent.

“Customers have been conditioned to push the envelope on faster delivery times,” the report says. Almost half (46 percent) “abandoned a shopping cart due to a shipping time that was too long or not provided.”

UPS and researcher comScore surveyed 5,330 online shoppers who make at least two to three, or more, online purchases in a typical three-month period.

Challenges for retailers

Retailers are “facing unprecedented challenges, and their very survival is in question,” the shipping firm says in the report. “They must keep pace with ever-evolving technology and customer expectations. Those retailers who can’t elevate their game won’t be on the playing field for long.”

But shoppers are clearly becoming more “evolved,” tech-savvy and less accommodating of so-so e-commerce. That’s particularly true of what UPS calls Power Shoppers and Millennials, both of whom like to keep control during the buying process.

Millennials have recently become the “largest group of shoppers with the most buying power, now surpassing Baby Boomers,” UPS says in the report.

Those kinds of shoppers want to see e-commerce-like tools in the brick-and-mortar environment, too. The shipping firm uses the example of mobile point-of-sale (POS) devices to check customers out on the floor, a la Apple stores.

And it’s digital technology—led by smartphones—that will drive growth in the future, UPS believes.

Eight percent of those surveyed said they are multichannel, or use multiple platforms to shop, including searching in stores and buying online. The same percentage said they do research online, along with in-store shopping and buying online. Those who do research online and in stores and buy in stores came in at eight percent, and 14 percent said they search online and buy in stores. Forty-two percent search and buy online, and a paltry 20 percent search and buy in stores.

Notably, desktops and laptops are still used in 95 percent of research and online purchasing.

However, increases in smartphones’ screen size ultimately will lead to a better experience on the phone and will result in faster future smartphone growth in shopping, UPS says.


Patrick Nelson was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Patrick Nelson and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.