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04 Mar 2024

£52 Billion of UK Online Sales Are Boosted by Omnichannel Experiences

ShipEngine Stand: 4B15
£52 Billion of UK Online Sales Are Boosted by Omnichannel Experiences
Retailers who excel at crafting an omnichannel experience – where browsing trends on social media inspire in-store visits and technology streamlines logistics – will be those positioned for success in 2024. It's not just about convenience, it's about fostering a dynamic, personalised journey that builds lasting brand loyalty.

The Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark Report 2024, commissioned by Metapack and ShipEngine’s parent company, Auctane, in partnership with Retail Economics, surveyed 8,000 consumers and 400 merchants across eight markets.

While familiar aspects like in-store browsing and returns play a critical role in the omnichannel experience, the research delves deeper, revealing the rising influence of social media and AI in the shopping journey.

Al Ko, CEO of Auctane, Metapack and ShipEngine’s parent company:

"The £52 billion figure reveals a fascinating evolution in consumer behaviour, and a major opportunity for brands. We're moving beyond simply 'online' or 'offline' shopping. Today's consumers seamlessly blend physical touchpoints, like stores, with social media discovery. They’re even showing openness to new innovations like AI for streamlining the most tedious parts of the shopping process, like delivery and returns.

“Retailers who excel at crafting this omnichannel experience – where browsing trends on social media inspire in-store visits and technology streamlines logistics – will be well-positioned for success in 2024. It's not just about convenience, it's about fostering a dynamic, personalised journey that builds lasting brand loyalty."

Social Media Overtakes Websites for Product Discovery Among Digital Natives

Forget retailer websites – for Gen Z and Millennials, platforms like TikTok and Instagram reign supreme for product discovery. Across surveyed markets, nearly 40% of digital natives (those under 45) rely on social media for inspiration and product research, compared to just 35% who use retail websites. This emphasises the need for retailers to adapt their strategies and reach audiences on their preferred platforms.

AI: A Glimpse into the Future of Customer Convenience

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) promises to revolutionise shopping. While some UK consumers remain cautious, 30% surveyed see AI as valuable for streamlining order and delivery updates, and 27% believe it can simplify returns and exchanges. This suggests a growing openness to AI's potential for enhancing the shopping experience. However, for retailers, clear communication and responsible implementation are crucial for building trust and ensuring AI is used effectively.

Other key findings include:

Cost-Conscious Consumers: Striking a Balance in Delivery

While physical interactions, social media, and seamless logistics drive online sales, cost sensitivity remains paramount for surveyed UK consumers, especially around delivery. A significant 42% state the cost of delivery is the most important factor to them when shopping online. The report further showcases the impact of high shipping costs: 65% of surveyed UK consumers are less likely to shop with a brand as a result of them, while 50% are unwilling to pay for premium delivery services. Navigating this delicate balance between cost optimization and customer satisfaction will be crucial for retailers this year.

Returns: From Friction Point to Loyalty Catalyst

Out-of-home returns are gaining momentum. 30% of the UK consumers surveyed report a preference for in-store returns and 25% favour PUDO (pick-up/drop-off) locations. The research also reveals a distinct generational divide in the frequency of returns: across all markets, Gen Z leads the pack, returning on average 19% of their apparel purchases.

While the debate around free returns persists, with 67% of the UK consumers surveyed expecting them, a 13% year-on-year decrease decrease in this sentiment suggests a growing understanding of their associated costs. Notably, across the markets surveyed, 50% of Gen Zs are willing to pay for a quick and hassle-free return, making them three times more likely than Boomers (aged 65+) to do so.

Ultimately, returns present a double-edged sword: 42% of  UK consumers surveyed report an inconvenient returns policy as a factor that would make them less likely to shop with a brand in the future. By embracing diverse, in-person return options, adopting a delivery ecosystem to address rising returns, and prioritising transparent policies, retailers can transform this potential churn point into a powerful customer retention tool.

Beyond Inflation: Navigating Retailer Challenges in 2024

Despite easing inflationary pressures, the merchants surveyed cited a trio of concerns heading into 2024: rising overhead costs (37%), weak customer demand (31%), and intense competition (27%). In this dynamic landscape, outshining the competition will ultimately require brands to orchestrate a frictionless customer journey.

Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics:

"The retail landscape in 2024 demands a robust omnichannel strategy, more so than ever. With £52 billion of online sales hinging on physical touchpoints, it’s clear that the customer journey is dynamic and increasingly complex. From product discovery to delivery and returns, shoppers demand convenience and value across all channels, and they won't tolerate friction along the way.

“Successful retailers are those that can provide seamless and consistent experiences that meet customer needs wherever and however they want to shop – whether online, in-store, or a mix of both. A pure-online or single-channel approach will struggle for relevance in today’s omnichannel environment."

For additional findings and recommended strategies for merchants, download The Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark Report 2024 today.


Express permission is granted for a link to Metapack or ShipEngine to be included in online news articles, blogs and posts.

Research methodology

Consumer surveys were undertaken by Retail Economics in November 2023 and include answers from a sample of more than 8,000 nationally representative consumers, additionally 800 Auctane customers were surveyed, across the UK, US, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Canada and Australia.

This analysis combines Retail Economics's proprietary retail sales data with consumer survey insights regarding online and physical channel preferences along the customer journey. Based on our Omnichannel flow diagrams, this involved quantifying the value of retail sales at different stages of the customer journey, focusing on instances where a customer orders a product online but also engages with a physical touchpoint, either pre or post-purchase. Physical touchpoints include any bricks-and-mortar interaction such as in-store browsing, out-of-home delivery (e.g. collect from store), and return to store or other drop off locations.

About Metapack

Metapack helps ecommerce and delivery professionals meet consumers’ growing expectations of delivery, while maintaining and improving operational efficiency. Metapack’s solution offers a wide range of personalised services, from delivery options to tracking, through a catalogue of 400+ carriers and 4,900+ services around the world. Thanks to Metapack, more than a billion packages are sent annually by many of the world’s leading ecommerce retailers. Metapack is a member of the Auctane family of companies and is headquartered in London. Auctane brands include ShipStation,, Packlink, ShippingEasy, ShipWorks, ShipEngine, Endicia, Shipsi, GlobalPost and Metapack, with offices in El Segundo, Austin, London, Madrid, Zielona Gora and Atlanta. Find out more at

About ShipEngine

ShipEngine is a multi-carrier shipping platform that provides best-in-class shipping functionality directly to ecommerce stores, logistics and warehouse providers, system integrators, ecommerce application integrators, and new application developers. Built specifically for developers, ShipEngine's robust set of shipping APIs enable developers to build custom workflows within their own platforms and streamline the ecommerce fulfilment process with real-time label generation, rate quoting, parcel tracking, and address validation. ShipEngine supports carriers across the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia, including USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL, and many more. ShipEngine is a member of the Auctane family of companies and is headquartered in Austin, TX. For more information, visit

About Retail Economics

Retail Economics is an independent economics research consultancy focused on the consumer and retail industry. We provide independent thought leadership on major economic and retail trends and analyse their impact on the industry. Retail Economics provides proprietary data on sector growth, behavioural trends, channel performance and forecasts.

1 UK, US, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Canada and Australia


Munveer Garcha

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