The holidays are here, and, as usual, high-tech shoppers are setting the trend – especially the Millennial generation.
They're buying online more. They're using smartphones and tablets more often to make purchases. When they do shop in stores, they're researching products on mobile devices to enhance the experience and to get a better deal. These are progressive shoppers. And they know what they want.
It would be a Christmas miracle if they didn't demand more and more each year. That's fine, though. It's how we like it. Those in the high-tech industry have long understood that the key to success in this business is creating new ways to differentiate our services from those of our rivals. Those that don't haven't got much of a chance.
For companies that provide shipping and other logistics services to the high-tech industry, the race to meet evolving demands of high-tech consumers never ends. We, too, have to ensure our offerings meet their high standards.
Consider these data points from a recent UPS survey of high-tech consumers:
- More than one in three recent high-tech purchasers prefer to have packages delivered to places other than their homes.
- More than half were interested in an alternate pick-up location that has extended hours. (Less than half of non-high-tech recent purchasers showed interest in alternate locations.)
- Half of recent high-tech purchasers have used ship to store, and half who have done so have made additional purchases during the pickup.
This tells us a lot. Cleary, home delivery remains the preferred option for high-tech shoppers, but they are at the forefront of the growing trend toward non-home deliveries. And we know we need to be flexible and find new ways to accommodate those who prefer alternatives such as the retailer's store, a friend or family member's home, another authorized pickup location, or the workplace.
UPS has been focused on this group of consumers for a while now. We've learned a lot about what they want. Flexibility is key—and some recent initiatives point in the direction we need to go. Our UPS Access Point network, for example, benefits customers who aren't home during the day to receive packages.
When a consumer is not home to receive a package, a UPS driver drops it off at a designated UPS Access Point location, which could be a neighborhood convenience store, deli, dry cleaners or The UPS Store. These small businesses are open late in the evening and on weekends and are within a 10-minute drive or walk of the consumer's home. We have 8,000 UPS Access Point locations in the United States and 22,000 worldwide.
Customers can also choose the UPS My Choice service, which notifies consumers when their packages are on the way and estimates the delivery time. If that time is not convenient, the consumer can reschedule or reroute the package or send it directly to a UPS Access Point location. Online shoppers traveling for the holidays can activate a vacation setting to have packages held and delivered when they return home. There are more than 20 million people around the world using this free service to manage their home deliveries.
Options like these are tailor-made for high-tech consumers, especially those who shop on mobile devices. These consumers want flexibility in every way possible, even options to change delivery dates after products have shipped.
Members of this demographic have made it crystal clear that they do not want to be tethered to their homes for deliveries. What's more, they are far more comfortable trying new delivery options than other groups of shoppers.
For package delivery companies, the work doesn't stop once items are delivered. Our data show that high-tech shoppers value and expect an easy return process that allows them to return online purchases to brick-and-mortar stores and to process returns and exchanges online.
No one who works in the high-tech industry can afford to ignore these trends. The Consumer Technology Association (formerly Consumer Electronics Association) predicted in October that 65% of all Americans, about 160 million people, planned to buy tech gifts this holiday season. Spending on these items was expected to reach nearly $34.2 billion.
UPS expects to deliver more than 630 million packages between Black Friday and New Year's Eve, an increase of more than 10% from last year. Obviously, we can trace much of this growth to online purchases of high-tech products.
As I said earlier, high-tech shoppers are a demanding bunch. We need to keep this group happy. There are a lot of factors to consider, and it's not always easy to get it right. But we have to strive to meet our customer's needs.
The holidays are the busiest time of the year for the high-tech industry and for shippers like UPS. This is our moment to shine.