Study: Nearly a Third of Consumers Now Shop Online At Least Once Per Week

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Third annual Walker Sands Future of Retail Study reveals key insights on consumer behavior and preferences, indicating a behind-the-scenes transformation in the retail industry.

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While e-commerce seems to have reached a saturation point when it comes to the number of consumers who shop online, there has been a steady increase year-over-year in the frequency of consumer purchases, according to the Walker Sands 2016 Future of Retail Study.

Almost a third of consumers (31 percent) now shop online at least once a week, up from 22 percent in 2015, and nearly three-quarters do so at least once a month. What’s more, the number of consumers who make an online purchase less than once per month has dropped from 38 percent to 27 percent year over year.

Alongside the IRCE conference this week in Chicago, Walker Sands Communications, one of the nation’s fastest growing PR and digital marketing firms, releases today its annual report documenting the changing habits of shoppers as more buying shifts to e-commerce. Where previous Future of Retail studies have indicated high consumer expectations for aspirational technology in the retail industry, this year’s report finds a more subtle shift in consumer opinion and behavior, indicating retailers are currently in an investment and adoption phase to meet consumer technology expectations.

“The priority for retailers no longer lies in increasing the number of consumers who shop online, but rather improving their experience - whether it be online, in store or across different product categories,” said Dave Parro, partner and vice president at Walker Sands. “Our findings indicate that retailers should be focusing their current efforts on pragmatic strategies to lay the groundwork for future growth.”

The Walker Sands 2016 Future of Retail Study identifies four key areas where retailers should focus their attention to meet consumer shopping expectations in an increasingly technology-driven environment.

Transforming Experiences in the Retail Industry

●    Supply chain and logistics: Over the past three years, seamless shipping, delivery and returns have become more and more important to consumers, making both primary future drivers of e-commerce growth. Today, free shipping continues to be the top incentive to drive more frequent online shoppers (88 percent), followed by one-day shipping (69 percent), free returns/exchanges (68 percent), and easier online returns (58 percent).

●    Integrated in-store and online experiences: While e-commerce is now a routine part of consumers’ lives, the study reveals there’s still a clear preference to shop in physical stores for most product categories, and a receptiveness to blending the online and brick-and-mortar experiences. In fact, seven in 10 consumers would be willing to opt into in-store tracking and mobile push notifications if properly incentivized by retailers.

●    The rise of luxury e-commerce: Luxury goods have been the clear laggard when it comes to consumers’ willingness to shop online. But the product category has seen a dramatic spike over the past few years, with the number of consumers who have purchased a luxury item, such as high-end jewelry, more than quadrupling since 2014.

●    Payment through mobile applications: Privacy and security concerns remain the primary reasons that consumers are hesitant to use mobile payment applications. This could explain why adoption has essentially remained flat year over year, with about a third of consumers having used these applications. That said, findings suggest peer-to-peer payment applications may be taking off faster than point-of-sale mobile applications, especially among younger generations, with 44 percent of respondents ages 18 to 25 having used a P2P app in the past year.

Expectations for the Future

Retailers are making significant investments in technology adoption to meet and exceed consumer expectations. Although drone technology is likely still a few years away, nearly 40 percent of consumers expect to receive their first drone-delivered package in the next two years or sooner. Beacon technology and virtual reality will further blend the in-store and online experience.

“Our findings indicate that the future of retail isn’t in pure e-commerce , but rather in omni-channel solutions bringing technology in store,” said Erin Jordan, account director and lead of the retail technology team at Walker Sands. “The combination of the appropriate use of new and emerging technology, such as virtual reality, beacons and drones, has the opportunity to bridge the online and in-store gap for consumers, while improvements in supply chain and logistics infrastructure will fuel growth for retailers from the back end.”

To view the full results of the 2016 Future of Retail Study, visit http://www.walkersands.com/futureofretail.

Methodology

The Walker Sands Future of Retail Study 2016 surveyed 1,433 consumers across the United States on their shopping habits, preferences and views on emerging retail technology. The survey was conducted online in February 2016, and has a 2.59 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

About Walker Sands
Walker Sands is a public relations and digital marketing agency for business to business technology companies. With offices in Chicago and San Francisco, Walker Sands was founded in 2001 to provide data-driven marketing support for a wide array of companies with the business mission of providing best-in-class communications counsel and services. Walker Sands is a two-time Inc. 5000 Honoree and has received several other industry-specific awards, such as PRSA Skylines, Hermes and PR Daily, among others. To learn more, visit http://www.walkersands.com.

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