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Online shoppers are increasingly taking advantage of live chat options when shopping online, reports UPS in the 5th installment of its 2017 Pulse of the Online Shopper research series. Some 42% see live chat as an important customer service option when shopping online, according to the study.

Close behind, 37% feel that the ability to ask questions via live chat is important when they’re searching for and selecting products online. There seems to be room for improvement for retailers here, though, as fewer than half (46%) of online shoppers are satisfied with the availability of live chat in this regard.

Live chat appears to be considered more important when searching for products than during checkout: just 22% say that access to live chat during checkout is important.

Overall, just 42% feel that it’s important to be able to contact customer service during checkout. A majority (55%) are satisfied with access to customer service information within the checkout experience.

Email’s the Top Service Channel

In line with several other pieces of research on brand interactions, the UPS study finds that email (55%) is the most likely to be considered important by consumers when shopping online.

Onsite questions and answers (45%) and frequently asked questions (45%) are also considered important by many while shopping online, while fewer (23%) look to social media as a customer service option.

Separately, the survey reveals that Facebook and Twitter are the most commonly used for customer service, with 30% of users of each seeking customer service through those platforms.

Same-Day Delivery Important; Returns Process Considered

Some 41% of online shoppers have ordered a product for same-day delivery, per the report. Almost one-third of respondents say they shop online more often as a result of same-day delivery, and 19% are willing to pay more for items as a result.

For some shoppers, the availability of same-day delivery figures into decision-making: 58% feel it important to view items available for same-day delivery when browsing and selecting products online. Moreover, 36% consider same-day delivery an important factor when deciding to shop with a physical store retailer, and 27% when choosing online retailers.

Another consideration factor for online shoppers is the returns process. In fact, fully two-thirds (68%) of the online shoppers surveyed said that they review the return policy before making a purchase. Moreover, 79% rate free return shipping as important to them.

While more shoppers have returned an item by shipping it back to a retailer than by returning it to the physical store, the latter option is the preferred one. Not wanting to pay for shipping was the main reason given by those who prefer returning an item to a physical store.

About the Data: The sixth annual UPS Pulse of the Online ShopperTM study was fielded in Q1 2017 and is based on the input from more than 5,189 qualified comScore panelists who made at least two online purchases in a typical three-month period.

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