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.\nIf they don\u2019t, fickle \u201cshoppers will likely go elsewhere to more efficiently meet their needs,\u201d the company says.\nUPS found that most online shoppers (58 percent) want to see a retailer\u2019s inventory online while they are shopping, and 20 percent will check inventory status at alternate locations or on a retailer\u2019s website when in the store.\nThat\u2019s 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\u2019s up from 48 percent last year. And as they do, they\u2019re getting more sophisticated.\n+ Also on Network World:\u00a0Need ecommerce for your SMB? SAP has a cloud tool for you +\nSelf-service and web-based tools are in demand, even though many outlets don\u2019t have them. Again, retailers should be concerned if they\u2019re one of the 55 percent that has omitted newer customer service instruments.\n\u201cToday\u2019s shoppers, especially Millennials and Power Shoppers, often prefer to take matters into their own hands when it comes to customer service,\u201d UPS says in the survey.\nForty 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.\nThe need for better logistics data is also apparent.\n\u201cCustomers have been conditioned to push the envelope on faster delivery times,\u201d the report says. Almost half (46 percent) \u201cabandoned a shopping cart due to a shipping time that was too long or not provided.\u201d\nUPS 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.\nChallenges for retailers\nRetailers are \u201cfacing unprecedented challenges, and their very survival is in question,\u201d the shipping firm says in the report. \u201cThey must keep pace with ever-evolving technology and customer expectations.\u00a0Those retailers who can\u2019t elevate their game won\u2019t be on the playing field for long.\u201d\nBut shoppers are clearly becoming more \u201cevolved,\u201d tech-savvy and less accommodating of so-so e-commerce. That\u2019s particularly true of what UPS calls Power Shoppers and Millennials, both of whom like to keep control during the buying process.\nMillennials have recently become the \u201clargest group of shoppers with the most buying power, now surpassing Baby Boomers,\u201d UPS says in the report.\nThose 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.\nAnd it\u2019s digital technology\u2014led by smartphones\u2014that will drive growth in the future, UPS believes.\nEight 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.\u00a0Forty-two percent search and buy online, and a paltry 20 percent search and buy in stores.\nNotably, desktops and laptops are still used in 95 percent of research and online purchasing.\nHowever, 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.