The Pulse of the Online Shopper: Meet the Millennials & Power Shoppers

Jul 01, 2016


One of my favorite annual reports is the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper. It's always full of great insights, designed to help online retailers determine the best path forward in today's challenging and complicated marketplace.

Twenty years ago, no one would have predicted the complexity of today's e-commerce landscape. Today's online retailers have the potential for unparalleled opportunity for growth, but they are also facing unprecedented challenges when it comes to keeping up with rapidly changing customer expectations and ever-evolving technology.

It's not surprising that the 2016 study revealed these three foundational trends that are having the biggest and most wide-sweeping impact across the board.

  1. Digital fuels future growth — For the first time in e-commerce history, online shoppers now state that over half of their purchases are made online.
  2. Smartphone are the driving force in retail change — 63% of Millenials and 41% of Gen Xers surveyed reported making purchases on a smartphone.
  3. Multi-channel purchases are growing — Multi-channel shopping has grown from 36% in 2015 to 38% in 2016. 4 in 10 purchases are online only.
Two shopper groups have emerged as being the most influential in shaping expectations for online shopping. Let's take a look at some of the key takeaways about power shoppers and the Millennial marvels from this year's study.

Power Shoppers

One thing is for sure—shoppers are taking more control of the process. Digital commerce has matured and today's customers have become very comfortable shopping across channels to find the best deal. 

Power shoppers are defined as anyone who has made nine or more purchase in a typical three-month period. They've learned the ropes and merit considerable attention because of their spending power and influence.

Meet the Power Shopper:
  • Conducts more activities on social media than their counterparts
  • Prefers to ship returns back to retailers
  • Finds web-based customer service options important when shopping online
  • Purchases apparel, luxury apparel, accessories, and appliances more often than their peers
  • Have a higher level of satisfaction with searching and browsing than other segments
  • Are active on their smartphones
  • Are likely to use retail apps instead of a web browser

Millennial Marvels

The younger generation is profoundly influencing the digital experience and the shopping journey. This first generation of digital natives has grown up with technology, they adapt to new tools quickly, and tend to prefer digital over other methods of interaction.

By 2025, Millennials will become 75% of the global workforce; brands need to start figuring out how to win over the Millennial buyer sooner versus later. Digital is the most important channel for this segment, they favor video and want informative and engaging content and they gravitate toward brands with a social conscience.

Meet the Millennial Marvels:

  • Are more likely to have purchased on all three devices: PC, Tablet, Smartphone
  • Rate all retailer app features more important
  • Make more purchases online
  • Are more likely to have made a new purchase while processing a return on the web
  • Are more likely to start a product search with a retail app, look at ideas on social media sites, and seek advice from friends/family
  • Are more likely to be influenced by product reviews, user generated content, and brand videos on a retailer's website
  • Are more likely to prefer packages delivered to alternate delivery locations
  • Rated web-based customer service options important when shopping online
  • Have a higher overall satisfaction with store customer service
  • Have used their smartphones for payment in store more often
  • Are more likely to have viewed retailers' social media posts and to have purchased on a social media site

The next several years are sure to be both exciting and tumultuous as retailers strive to deliver a compelling, seamless experience across all channels. Understanding the nuances of the today's well-connected, in-control shopper is a critical step toward determining the best path in an e-commerce strategy.