UPS Survey: Online Shopping Has Surpassed In-Store Buying For The First Time

Image courtesy of Flyinace2000

While there are no doubt innumerable studies, surveys, and reports on the habits of modern shoppers, at least one survey says that consumers are buying stuff online more than they are in stores, for the first time ever.

This might not come as a shock to some, the kinds of people who would sooner order toilet paper on Amazon than put on shoes to run out to the corner store, but it’s the first time in UPS’ five years of conducting the annual survey that online shopping edged out in-store purchasing habits.

UPS and comScore surveyed 5,000 online shoppers who made at least two online purchases in a three-month period (excluding groceries) and found that they made 51% of their purchases on the web, compared with 48% in 2015, and 47% in 2014.

A lot of that is on-the-go shopping, or at least, not everyone is sitting in front of a computer: 44% of smartphone users said they bought something on their device, an increase from 41% a year ago.

Only 20% of shoppers’ purchases were made by going to a store, browsing, and buying, which is down from 22% in 2015. A full 42% said they search and buy online exclusively, and the rest said they combined both online and in-store shopping and browsing.

This news is likely to add to the pressure traditional retailers have been feeling to catch up to the e-commerce trend, as they face off against industry giant Amazon — which accounted for an estimated 60% of total U.S. online sales growth alone, The Wall Street Journal notes.

“There’s going to be severe continued pressure on department stores because traffic is going to peel away from that channel towards Amazon,” one retail analyst told The WSJ.

It’s not going to get better, either, as 17% of consumers plan to shop less in store, in favor of buying on electronic devices. There is one bright spot for retailers who still have shoppers coming in, UPS points out, if they can figure out how to pull it off.

“We know shoppers use their smartphones while in-store, so if retailers can tie together mobile messaging with valuable features in their apps, this can be a winning combination,” said Louis DeJianne, UPS director for retail and consumer products.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.