Source: UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper (2016).
The growth of e-commerce has permitted the setting of new purchase behaviors as well as delivery options. These take different forms depending on consumer preferences, which is reflective of their socioeconomic environment:
- Frequency of purchases. Online retail users perform their purchases dominantly through a single channel. This either involves purchases made online using an e-commerce marketplace (42%) or the standard in-store purchase (20%). The emergence of omnichannel forms of purchases combines store and online activities. It could involve a consumer browsing products online, and once a decision has been made, to go to a store to purchase the selection. It could also be the opposite when a consumer sees a product in a store and decides to make the purchase online as long as the omni chain takes place within the same retailer—the retailer gains by offering a greater flexibility level. However, in many cases, a consumer will purchase a good seen in a store from a competing online retailer, resulting in a net loss from a store that now acts as a free showroom.
- Preferred delivery location. Most online retail users (65%) prefer a direct home delivery since it is usually the most convenient option. However, there are several indirect options available that either matches the buyer activity space, such as workplace deliveries (5%), or the carrier activity space, such as a delivery locker (4%). The use of another retailer (e.g. a drugstore or a florist) that offers a delivery and pickup option for consumers leaving nearby (relay point) is also an emerging option (5%). Although workplace delivery is a convenient option since consumers spend a significant amount of time at their workplace, it is not a common option in the United States. Many employers forbid workplace deliveries of personal online purchases since it ties up mail rooms capacity and becomes an additional cost burden.
An important strategy for retailers is thus the development of omni channels offering their customers purchase options which are coupled with flexibility in delivery options. Thus, it is not surprising that conventional retailers are trying to develop omnichannel forms of interaction to remain competitive. Alternatively, several online retailers are also developing physical stores to offer additional purchase and delivery options to their customers. Once e-commerce has matured, convergence will likely take place along a retail store able to handle a large range of purchase and delivery options. The store could become a showroom, a pickup point, and a distribution center.