Holiday Shoppers Are Channel Hoppers

The number of consumers shopping online is growing, and the current holiday season should set a new record. But, according to Sterling Commerce, whether consumers shop online, in stores, or through call centers, they may purchase, pick-up, return, or exchange a gift through an entirely different channel from the one they used to make the purchase.

A survey of 5,000 consumers indicated 65% expect to be able to cancel or modify an order via a store, the store's Web site, or a call center regardless of which channel was used to place the initial order. Also, 55% feel it is important to be able to complete an order via any of the channels, regardless of which channel was initially used to place the order.

Communication is critical points out Jim Bengier, director of retail industry marketing for Sterling Commerce. Over three fourths of consumers think notification of shipping and order fulfillment is very important to their online shopping experience. And, over half feel that if a retailer is out of stock on an item, the retailer should locate the out-of-stock item at another location and ship it to the customer for free. To that end, 43% of consumers find that sales associates are not able to check availability at the store or at other store locations, and 38% state that sales associates cannot determine whether a given product is in stock.

Rating convenience for online shopping, 37% of respondents said "shipping is quick." More than half valued having shipping options, and 28% said that a Web site that offers an option for in-store pick up was valuable to them. The ability to return a product to a store (even if purchased online) was a factor for 28% of respondents.

Free shipping was important to 82% of consumers responding to the survey. Some savvy consumers (40%) also wanted free shipping upgrades. For returns, a free return/exchange label was important to 74%. Prepaid return labels were important for 32% of respondents. While 57% wanted an option to return or exchange an item at a store, 27% wanted the items to be picked up at their homes.

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