SEMA News—October 2012

BUSINESS
By Kristin DeBates

Rev Up Your Online Customer Experience With Logistics

How to Deliver the Goods to Online Shoppers

  A recent study by comScore revealed new insights into the consumer online shopping experience.
A recent study by comScore revealed new insights into the consumer online shopping experience. Commissioned by UPS, the comScore study polled more than 3,100 online shoppers and evaluated consumer perceptions and shopping habits ranging from pre-purchase to delivery and even the returns process.
   

The online retail market for automotive parts and accessories continues to emerge as a tremendous growth opportunity for the aftermarket parts industry. While appraisals of sales volumes within the online auto parts industry vary, estimates range from $1.8 billion to $4 billion annually.

The recent 2012 SEMA Annual Market Report found that consumers (46.2%) cited chain auto parts stores and specialty parts stores as their primary outlets for purchasing automotive parts and accessories; however, online retail was the next highest outlet, with 24.5% of respondents reporting that they primarily purchased automotive parts from online retailers. The online retailers ranged from online auction sites and chain auto parts online stores to online-only retailers.

It is clear that the popularity and potential for online retailing of automotive parts serves as a growth opportunity for the industry. Taking advantage of this opportunity will require automotive suppliers and retailers to look at the customer experience in a new way—from the perspective of an online shopper.

A recent study by comScore revealed new insights into the consumer online shopping experience. Commissioned by UPS, the comScore study polled more than 3,100 online shoppers and evaluated consumer perceptions and shopping habits ranging from pre-purchase to delivery and even the returns process. Ultimately, the survey found that the ability to control deliveries and having increased visibility were the most important factors driving today’s online shoppers. Following are highlights of top study findings and advice for automotive parts suppliers on strategies to address online customer expectations.

Options, Options and More Options

One of the keys to success with online shoppers is to provide them with a variety of delivery options to meet their needs. The comScore Online Customer Experience study found that while 67% of shoppers preferred the most economical delivery option, the majority of respondents also desired the option to speed up shipments in urgent scenarios, such as the need for a crucial part. Long delivery lead times also can be a major deterrent for online shoppers. The study found that 80% of online shoppers reported recently abandoning their online shopping carts, and 78% of those respondents cited the specified delivery time or a delivery time of more than five days as their reason for cart abandonment.

In order to address online customers’ preferences for delivery date options, look for shipping partners that offer a number of flexible shipping options, ranging from premium express delivery to more economical options, such as ground delivery. The more shipping options made available to online customers, the more likely they are to follow through with their online purchases.

  A recent study by comScore revealed new insights into the consumer online shopping experience.
   
Communication Is Key

Similar to providing online shoppers with multiple delivery options, retailers should be aware that shoppers want to know the details regarding their delivery date prior to making an online purchase. Providing online customers with an accurate delivery date from the beginning can further ensure that customer expectations are being met. Additionally, 46% of survey respondents said that receiving a product when expected led them to recommend an online retailer.

Online shoppers not only want to know when they will receive a package, but also want to use technology to stay on top of their delivery. Of the online shoppers surveyed, 39% said that receiving an e-mail or text delivery alert was the most convenient form of notification.

There are a number of tools available to assist online retailers with these customer preferences for increased communication and visibility. These tools range from enabling retailers to place package tracking capabilities directly on their websites to solutions that help retailers proactively alert customers of their delivery via e-mail or text.

  A recent study by comScore revealed new insights into the consumer online shopping experience.
   
Put Shoppers in the Driver’s Seat

In addition to multiple delivery options and visibility into the status of deliveries, online shoppers also desire the ability to control package delivery and timing even after their orders are placed. This is particularly true for customers who cannot always be home when deliveries are scheduled to arrive. The comScore study found that many online shoppers were interested in the ability to reroute a package to another address or want to specify if a package can be left with a neighbor.

Services such as UPS My Choice proactively alert consumers about upcoming deliveries and give them the ability to reschedule or re-route packages to meet their specific schedule.

Just as Easy in Reverse

The online customer experience doesn’t end once a package is delivered. Returns (or reverse logistics) are a key part of the customer experience. If a product needs to be returned or shipped back to the retailer, an easy or seamless returns process is an opportunity to improve the online shopping experience—and even gain a competitive advantage. The comScore study found that 62% of online shoppers considered having a return label right in the box to be the ideal returns scenario. The survey also found that easy-to print returns labels and automatic refunds were highly desired by most online shoppers.

Most importantly, survey respondents reported that a positive returns experience would lead them to shop more often with a retailer and to recommend the retailer to a friend. Online retailers should keep this last step in the online shopping process in mind as they create and manage their shipping and logistics strategies.

From the very beginning of the purchasing process all the way to the returns process, logistics plays a significant role in the online customer experience. As automotive parts and accessories continue to move to this growing retail platform, suppliers and retailers should keep online consumer perceptions and expectations top of mind as they design and evolve their logistics process. For additional information on the UPS and comScore Online Customer Experience Study, a whitepaper detailing the findings can be downloaded at www.thenewlogistics.ups.com/retail/comscore-survey.

Kristin DeBates is the UPS corporate marketing manager for the automotive segment.

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