Home Study: Consumers Demand More from Omnichannel Retailers
April 18, 2024

Study: Consumers Demand More from Omnichannel Retailers

Posted In: Retail Articles

A new study from ShipStation and Retail Economics indicates that 73% of U.S. consumers blend online research, physical store visits and options such as buy-online-pickup-in-store or in-store returns on their way to making purchase decisions. 

Key findings from the study include, according to the authors:

  • Physical Touchpoints Take the Center Stage. The report demonstrated that a staggering $448 billion in online sales across the United States and Canada depend on physical touchpoints, including in-store browsing, buy-online-pickup-in-store or in-person returns, accounting for 41% of total online sales.
  • Social Media and AI Emerge as New Search Engines. Globally, consumers aged 45 and under are almost four times more likely to report researching products on social media versus older generations. A quarter of surveyed U.S. consumers stated that they were open to using AI-powered chatbots to research products before making a purchase.
  • Fast and Free Delivery Landscape. Regardless of where they discovered a product, consumers still expect fast and affordable delivery for online purchases, with 60% of those surveyed in the U.S. expecting free shipping to take two days or less. That’s a speed only one-fourth of surveyed retailers in the U.S. and Canada can provide today. Meanwhile, over half of all surveyed retailers cite rising shipping costs as the main threat to their performance, and a net balance of 34% plan to increase their delivery charges in 2024, up from 28% a year ago.
  • Returns Still a Complex Issue. Convenient returns are important to consumers, but printing out a shipping label and dropping a return off with a carrier isn’t appealing, with 80% of surveyed U.S. consumers preferring alternative return means, such as having a parcel service pick up their return from their home, using third-party drop-off locations such as kiosks or lockers, or visiting a physical store to make a return. Meanwhile, only 19% of surveyed retailers offered out-of-home returns options.

“For retailers, the pressure to be everywhere their customers are has never been greater,” said Al Ko, CEO of Auctane, ShipStation parent company, in announcing the study results. “Due to increased choice and tighter wallets, consumers are more selective about the brands they shop with and will settle for nothing less than a unified experience across websites, physical storefronts, marketplace channels, and social media. Seamless integration across all these touchpoints – alongside an on-time, right-price product delivery – is no longer optional, but essential for survival.”

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