E-Commerce and transportation

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A recent study United Parcel Service conducted with digital retail analytics firm comScoredubbed the Pulse of the Online Shopper focused on the automotive parts and accessories buyers (AP&A) market highlights some of the interesting changes going on in the realm of “e-Commerce” as it’s called: changes that are affecting transportation services as well.

UPS said it “joined forces” with comScore for this annual research (now in its second year) as Big Brown desires a better handle on the “wants and needs of online shoppers” in the midst of rapid e-Commerce growth – as well as gauge the rapid “proliferation” of tablets and smart phones being used as shopping tools.

Last year alone the U.S. saw a 15% surge in retail and e-Commerce spending, according to comScore’s research, which was seven times greater than the corresponding growth in “bricks-and-mortar” spending, as well as the second consecutive year of growth in the mid-teens.

Even though the data below is gleaned from just the AP&A portion of the study (some 200 out of a pool of 3,000 online shoppers surveyed by comScore) in relation to e-Commerce as a whole, look at how intertwined transportation is in the online shopping experience:

  • Although price is a major factor in the online purchasing process, AP&A survey respondents said non-price features – such as the seller’s return policy, product selection and shipping options – make up 60% of all comparison-shopping considerations.
  • About 75% reported that they have added additional items to their shopping carts in order to qualify for free shipping.
  • Online shoppers are willing to wait up to seven days to receive their shipment in exchange for no additional fees.
  • Although 81% of AP&A shoppers surveyed were satisfied overall with the shopping experience, they are the least satisfied with the amount of control and flexibility they have when it comes to the delivery of their purchases.
  • Shoppers are looking for more flexibility to choose delivery dates and times, ability to pick up their order at a convenient retail location, flexibility to re-route packages and environmentally “green” shipping options.
  • About 53% of AP&A buyers said the availability of free or discounted shipping on automotive websites needs the most improvement. This was followed by 42% who would like ease of checkout improvements and 40% who were looking for more clear and easy understanding of the seller’s return policy. 
  • Here’s a key factor: some 48% said they abandoned their online shopping cart if the shipping cost was higher than they expected or if they discovered that their order wasn’t large enough to qualify for free shipping.
  • A whopping 96% of respondents indicated the ability to track their shipment is important.
  • About 59% reported being satisfied with the ease of making returns and exchanges, indicating there is room for improvement in this area.
  • Significantly, 71% of online shoppers said they are more likely to purchase from a seller for the first time if that seller has a “hassle-free” returns policy.
  • Restocking fees were a deal breaker for most shoppers. Shoppers also said they are less likely to make a purchase if they have to pay a restocking fee, even if the actual return shipping is free. 
  • One in 10 AP&A buyers prefer to shop using a mobile device or tablet.

What can trucking learn from some of this data? Take the factoid in bullet point three: AP&A online shoppers are willing to wait seven days if the shipping is free to them. Of course, shipping is never truly “free,” as transportation cost is necessarily built into the price of every product sold via the Internet or off a store shelf.

But that length of time opens up more opportunity, it would seem, for ground-based transportation. Add to it the desire by 96% of those surveyed to track delivery of their product – a capability more and more truckers now incorporate into their operations – and the opportunity seems to expand even more.

Something to think about at least as e-Commerce activity is only expected to keep right on growing well into the future.

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