The Modern Buyer’s Journey: Creating an Omnichannel Strategy for 2024

Published on May 15, 2024
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Filed under Shipping News
Read time 13 Minutes

Your customers aren’t choosing between shopping online OR in-store anymore. In fact, 75% of consumers rely on both physical and digital touchpoints throughout their buying journey. That means shoppers expect both in-person and online options. Even though in-store options are popular, shoppers still expect faster delivery options, real-time tracking notifications, and simpler returns. How can you meet high customer expectations while also offering a broad range of services? We’ll provide your business with all the tools you need to succeed in our 2024 Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark report.

Download the full report here

Key Takeaways 

  • Returns should be convenient and flexible. 
  • Businesses must invest in hybrid retail and social media. 
  • Your business needs a unified commerce strategy to streamline every customer touchpoint and coordinate operational reporting.  
  • There are generational and geographical divides surrounding delivery and communication preferences. 

Who are your customers?

Before fine-tuning your strategy, it’s important to understand your customer base. For our report, we’ve divided shoppers into two categories: digital natives and digital adopters. Digital natives are those under 45 who grew up in the information age. Digital adopters are those over 45 who grew up before the information age. 

We’ve also created five main buyer personas. These personas include: 

  1. Online-First Flexers (33%): These shoppers favor out-of-home delivery and return options. They also tend to shop online more than in-store. However, they love convenience and a variety of products and services. 
  2. Store-First Flexers (21% – typically older consumers): These shoppers primarily browse online but prefer to purchase in-store. 
  3. Omnichannel Maestros (19% – younger digital natives): These consumers shop both online and in-person and also utilize out-of-home and home delivery options. 
  4. Online-Only Shoppers (16% – Millennials and Gen X): These shoppers only shop online. They also opt for home delivery and carrier pickup/drop-off return options.  
  5. Store Loyalists (11% – over 65): These shoppers only purchase products in-store and prefer physical retailers. 

The future is unified commerce 

Omnichannel commerce has dominated for the past 15 years. But, unified commerce is emerging as its next evolution. Unified commerce takes the idea of omnichannel commerce and expands upon it. For example, omnichannel strategies focus on expanding your selling channels and the customer experience across these channels. But unified commerce takes this a step further. 

Unified commerce integrates every part of the retail process into a single platform. This includes everything from your business’s backend programs to customer-facing aspects like your selling channels and POS systems. Unified commerce establishes a seamless process for your customers and your business overall. As physical retail and new digital shopping trends emerge, unified commerce provides the data-driven resources and efficiency needed to keep up with shopping trends. 

Include social media in your omnichannel strategy 

Most shoppers use search engines as the first step in their product research. While search engines are the leading choice for research, where they take shoppers may be surprising. Many shoppers head to online marketplaces and social media for key product recommendations. Online marketplaces such as Amazon are even where many shoppers begin their discovery. Additionally, social media is becoming increasingly important for product discovery and purchasing. Selling and showcasing your products on social media platforms can lead to significant sales traffic, particularly with younger shoppers.

Success lies in hybrid retail 

Physical storefronts are seeing a resurgence. If you’re able to rent or buy a storefront, it’s worth the investment. If you can’t afford your own retail space, there are options like sharing a storefront with another business. You can also bring products to shared spaces like markets, bazaars, and special events. This way, your business still gets exposure in a physical space.

Opening physical locations can do more than increase local, brick-and-mortar sales. It can contribute to what’s known as the halo effect. The halo effect is when businesses see an uptick in online sales in the immediate area surrounding a physical store when opening stores in that location. However, we know that this type of expansion isn’t possible for all businesses.

Download the full report

Delivery expectations are tricky 

Consumers want fast and free delivery. But what does that actually cost you? 35% of shoppers and 45% of retailers believe shipping costs are the most important factor in the delivery experience. However, 66% of digital adopters aren’t willing to pay for expedited shipping. And, 33% of customers overall said they would never pay for premium shipping. 

The catch is that most US and EU shoppers want to receive their order within 2 days of ordering it. How can your business meet these expectations without breaking the bank? ShipStation customers can enjoy up to 89%* off USPS, UPS, and other major carriers. This helps alleviate some of the out-of-pocket costs. 

Premium delivery options are still expensive, though. But, there are options. 16% of customers believe convenient delivery is the most important factor when ordering online. Convenient delivery options can include home or out-of-home delivery, depending on your customer base. 

*Rates are limited to shipping from the continental U.S. only. These rates and discounts exclude shipment origins from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska. Rates and any applicable discounts are subject to change at any time without notice.

Global delivery expectations

We’ve briefly mentioned delivery expectations for the US and the EU. But how do these expectations compare to Canada and Australia? Here are a few key differences: 

  • Australia
    • 28% of Australian shoppers expect 3-4 day delivery. 
  • Canada 
    • 31% of Canadian shoppers expect 3-4 day delivery. 
  • United States 
    • 37% of United States shoppers expect delivery within 2 days. 
  • EU 
    • 34% of EU shoppers expect delivery within 2 days.

Consumers want items sooner without paying premium costs. But, your business needs to consider where you’re selling. This way, you can offer delivery options that best align with your consumers. 

Out-of-home delivery 

Out-of-home delivery options are seeing a rise in popularity. In fact, 26% of customers opt for out-of-home delivery options. These options range from Amazon lockers to in-store pickup and carrier pickup locations. 

Out-of-home delivery options are popular with consumers who live in urban areas. 33% of customers who live in major cities prefer them. 29% of shoppers who live in towns prefer out-of-home delivery options. Additionally, out-of-home delivery combats porch piracy, as packages aren’t left unattended. 

ParcelGuard shipping insurance 

Shoppers won’t always be home when packages are delivered. This makes packages more susceptible to theft. Additionally, packages can sometimes be lost or damaged in transit. These uncertainties can leave shoppers worried. 10% of US and Canadian shoppers and 14% of EU and Australian shoppers said they were less likely to shop with a brand again if they didn’t offer shipping insurance. 

ParcelGuard allows ShipStation customers to purchase additional coverage of up to $10,000. This insurance covers stolen, lost, and damaged shipments, so you’re prepared for any situation. There’s also no need to create a new account on an external site. ParcelGuard is already enabled in your ShipStation account. Just select the coverage you need, and we’ll do the rest. 

Download the full report 

Make returns flexible and convenient 

Returns preferences vary by region. US and EU consumers prefer in-store returns. However, Canadian and Australian shoppers prefer courier pickups. One thing consumers do agree on is the importance of easy returns. 13% of shoppers said that convenient returns were the most important purchasing factor to them. In contrast, only 2% of online retailers agreed. 

From a global perspective, returns should be taken seriously. In fact, over one-third of shoppers in each region said inconvenient returns would keep them from repeat purchases. Here’s how it breaks down: 

  • US – 42% 
  • Canada – 42% 
  • Australia – 40% 
  • EU – 39%

Revisit your returns policy 

Returns play a major role in customer satisfaction. 13% of customers believe simple returns are the most important delivery factor. That being said, when was the last time you revised your returns policy? Last year’s peak season

Now’s the time to ensure your returns policy is clear, concise, and convenient. Revisit your returns policy through a shopper’s lens. How many pages are customers taken through? Are returns free? We have a few tips to get you started: 

  • Include links for carrier dropoff locators 
  • Clearly state whether or not returns are free 
  • Check all of your support channels are up to date 
  • Remove any confusing language or unclear instructions

ShipStation Branded Returns Portal 

Another easy way to up your returns game is through a ShipStation Branded Returns Portal. Your customers can easily initiate their own returns with your generated link. This link replaces the need for sending a physical return label with packages. Additionally, it eliminates the need to cancel unused return labels in your account. You can also run reports anytime for more insights on why products are being returned. This way, returns are streamlined and better aligned with shopper expectations. 

There’s a bright outlook for ecommerce. However, the shape of retail is always changing. Also, consumers expect a lot from online retailers. The key is understanding customer profiles and how those profiles influence shopping behaviors. 

We’ve collected all of the information you need for success this year. But, this blog is only the beginning. For the full story, download the 2024 Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark Report today! 

Download now

Written by

Baillee Perkins

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