Accelerating growth in demand for high-tech products these days puts unprecedented pressure on manufacturers to understand their online consumers' preferences and purchasing behaviors.
We now know that customers demand greater flexibility and convenience from pre-purchase to delivery and post-purchase, and they want a better mobile experience. These are a few of the findings of the 2014 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study. High-tech companies must keep these priorities in mind as they plan product launches and continue to hone the shopping and user experience for their e-commerce and m-commerce customers.
In 2013 alone, manufacturers shipped 1 billion smartphones. That's a lot of high-tech products in the global supply chain coming from just one category. And this volume tells us plenty about the importance of mobile online shopping and the way customers feel about it.
Most consumers still prefer to use a desktop or laptop computer to make purchases, but more than half of tablet and e-reader users and 41% of smartphone users shop on mobile devices, the UPS study shows.
Despite the popularity of m-commerce, consumers remain frustrated by barriers. Forty-three percent of customers who purchased computers or electronic equipment online complained about being unable to get a clear or large-enough image of products. Thirty-eight percent of them said they have trouble viewing product information. And 33% of them have difficulty comparing products.
Whether a company makes mobile devices or other high-tech products, these issues are relevant -- either for product development or for improving the user experience on mobile shopping sites.
Among the other survey findings that high-tech companies should heed:
- Even with the growth of e-commerce, the store remains important. More than half of online shoppers have chosen the "ship-to-store" option, with four out of 10 making an additional purchase while in the store. Omni-channel options are critical to the customer experience.
- Seventy-nine percent of electronics consumers want free shipping of online orders. Sixty-three percent like to see the estimated delivery date and shipping costs early in the shopping and checkout process. Fifty-seven percent want to see the actual date of arrival, compared with 23% who want to see the number of days it will take their shipment to arrive.
- Delivery preferences are evolving. While 72% of electronics consumers still prefer to have most of their orders delivered to their homes, there is a growing preference for alternate delivery locations.
- Returns are vital to the overall customer experience. Increasingly, electronics consumers are reviewing a retailer's returns policy before making purchases -- 41% in 2014, compared with 33% in 2012.
Just as product innovation has always been crucial in the high-tech industry, supply chain and logistics innovation has become essential to the growth of e-commerce and m-commerce. It also fuels the rise of an informed and influential high-tech consumer base. Companies should assess opportunities for improvement in the customer experience across the path to purchase, including the post-purchase phase.