Consumers are becoming more discerning about the online shopping journey as e-commerce reaches $2.9 trillion in value. But the most important focus areas for retailers remain the same: price, convenience and quality.
The annual UPS “Pulse of the Online Shopper” survey has found that competitive pricing; fast, free shipping and returns; and quality product are the key deciding factors for a customer looking to buy.
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In a survey of 18,000 consumers across 15 countries, UPS found that 90% of online shoppers researched a product before purchasing. This means an increased risk that the customer will choose an alternative retailer after finding a better deal, especially since 71% researched price.
However, customers who are members of multiple loyalty programs are less likely to research before buying; instead, they go straight to their preferred retailer. And if a retailer can’t offer the shipping efficiency of a larger competitor, the survey suggests that creating membership value could still help retain customers. Survey respondents ranked membership perks like free shipping (63%), discounts (61%) and rewards points (59%) as top reasons they would join a loyalty program.
The value of free shipping and returns was reflected across all global markets, but particularly in the U.S. market. The majority of global respondents said they check the returns policy before making a purchase, while 70% of U.S. online shoppers reported being less likely to purchase from a merchant that doesn’t offer free returns.
And even when customers do progress through the shopping journey to checkout, there is still the risk of cart abandonment. Again, shipping is frequently the deciding factor. UPS found that the biggest reason for cart abandonment was a higher cost of delivery than anticipated (41%), while an additional 27% chose not to purchase after seeing a slower than expected delivery window.
Retailers who do offer comprehensive shipping solutions should make sure they offer a customer’s preferred payment method. After shipping and inventory issues, this was the third most popular reason for cart abandonment. In addition to popular credit cards, these methods include digital wallets, platforms like PayPal and installment-payment services, such as Quadpay, Klarna and Afterpay.
Despite large-scale industry focus on sustainability efforts, the UPS survey also found that customers aren’t willing to sacrifice price for environmental benefits. Only 19% of U.S. consumers said they would pay a premium for sustainable packaging, compared with 26% of global respondents. For now, lower costs and efficient shipping remain the consumer’s priority.
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