Source: UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper (2016).
The growth of ecommerce 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 a ecommerce marketplace (42%) or the standard in-store purchase (20%). The emergence of omni channel forms of purchases combine 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, then the retailer gains by offering a greater level of flexibility. 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. There are however a number of indirect options available that either match 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 place of work, 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 a flexibility in delivery options. It is thus not surprising that conventional retailers are trying to develop omni channel 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 ecommerce has matured, it is likely that a convergence will 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.