UPS study finds online shoppers want delivery options and returns

Happy Young Woman Shopping Online

UPS research from its Pulse of the Online Shopper study shows that a glitzy website or a modern app aren’t enough to satisfy today’s savvy online shoppers.

They demand upfront transparency on fees, control over the delivery process, a clearly-stated returns policy, and loyalty rewards.

The 2019 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study captured evolving trends, preferences and expectations of online shoppers in 15 countries and regions, including the US, Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and, for the first time, India.

UPS looked at the generational impact

This latest Pulse examined the generational impact that Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers are having on retail trends.

The results offer retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers intelligence that can help them grow and compete globally.

“For seven years, the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper has spotted emerging e-commerce trends before they became mainstream. This proprietary research is just one way UPS continues to offer valuable insights that help retailers and shippers make strategic decisions to meet changing global consumer needs.”

Kevin Warren, UPS chief marketing officer

Key themes pulled from this year’s study include:

  • Critical customer experience begins with research. Ninety percent of customers research items before purchasing them online, while younger generations are most likely to be influenced by customer reviews. Ninety-five percent of all buyers expect to see all shipping fees and taxes totaled before they’ll complete the purchase.
  • Online shoppers want to feel valued and be rewarded. As a result, about one in five (19%) of consumers have more than five loyalty memberships — reasons given for joining include free shipping, members-only discounts, and rewards points.

Marketplaces drive online sales

Meanwhile, online marketplaces remain popular: Ninety-six percent of online shoppers have used a marketplace, while 36% of consumers worldwide intend to purchase more on marketplaces in the next 12 months.

Worldwide, 48% of consumers buy items impulsively on marketplaces.

READ MORE: Virtually all ecommerce shoppers buy from marketplaces, UPS study shows

Shoppers still want choice and convenience, but they’d rather not pay for it

Respondents like next-day deliveries, but they will consider other options – such as lower fees or incentives – for slower shipping.

Millennial shoppers are more likely to choose accelerated delivery options than other age groups.

Generally, though, online shoppers show a very low appetite for paying for shipping.

That’s why they’ll take various actions to get free shipping, including adding items to the cart (36%), choosing the slowest transit time (32%) and searching online for a promo code (32%).

Fifty-six percent of online shoppers track deliveries, with Americans the most likely to be active trackers.

Returns remain key to creating return customers

Returning merchandise remains a crucial demand for online shoppers, with 73% of surveyed consumers responding that the returns experience affected whether they would continue shopping with a retailer.

Globally, 36% of online shoppers returned an item in the previous three months, and about two-out-of-three shoppers (63%) ship returns back to sellers/retailers.

This method is the most popular in Europe and Asia-Pacific (APAC), where 67% of shoppers ship their returns.

Meanwhile, the main reason cited for a poor returns experience is a delay in getting a refund (25%).

Having to pay for a return annoys a significant percentage of consumers (24%), as does a delay in receiving an exchange or a replacement item (21%).

About the ‘UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper’ study

The UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study evaluates consumer shopping habits from pre-purchase to post-delivery.

UPS conducted the study in early 2019 and it is based on a PwC survey of more than 18,000 online shoppers worldwide. Respondents made at least two online purchase in a typical three-month period.


What do you think about the findings in this UPS study? Please use the comments section below or head over to our Facebook Group for Small Business Sellers and interact with other small business owners.

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