Free shipping and ease-of-return dominates online shoppers demands says survey

Companies need to view free shipping options as vital to an e-commerce operation according to a new consumer survey of online shippers

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93% of online shoppers are greatly or somewhat impacted by shipping cost, 90% highly value free returns when making online purchases, and 91% say free shipping influences future purchases. Giveaways also positively influence consumers' future purchases. These factors outranked faster delivery times, according to the annual eCommerce study conducted by third-party logistics (3PL) provider Dotcom Distribution.

Data from more than 1,400 online shoppers indicates a shift from previous years, when consumers placed higher value on gift-like packaging and fast delivery, although 77% still said that delayed order arrival would influence future purchase decisions with an e-tailer. Results also demonstrate a change in how consumers view brick-and-mortar, and that age plays a significant role in preferences.

Not only are consumers highly influenced by shipping but 67% are likely to add items to cart to receive free shipping. This suggests that shippers are going to face a much more demanding environment from the online commerce sector and need to prepare for volume growth above other factors. Only 25% of 2018 respondents would pay extra for faster shipping—in sharp contrast to the 47% who'd have paid up to $9 more for faster delivery in 2016.

That being said, the percentage of shoppers who reported using same-day shipping rose 19% from 2017 to 2018 to 42%.

Amazon was the clear winner in the e-commerce environment, with 44% of respondents doing most of their online shopping on the online giant.

"With eCommerce now such an integral part of life, we sought to discover what factors impact where customers decide to spend money," said Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution. "Two years ago, it was quality packaging and fast delivery. Today, while those factors are valued, a brand's opportunity to reach, retain and extend customers' lifetime value lies in giving them what they want, how and when they want it."

Consumers buy more online now than ever, but a physical presence is still vital in the retail business model, and shoppers are drawing a stronger connection between the two. Thirty-two percent (32%) prefer buying online vs. in-store, yet 74% are more likely to make a purchase if they can return/exchange in-store. When asked how brands can to encourage future purchases, 31% said "buy online, return in store"—ranking fourth of 10 choices. 41% prefer to return in-store versus 29% who prefer mail.

Younger buyers in the survey prioritized convenience (flexibility of returning in-store; faster delivery). Older consumers want value (low-cost or free shipping; free returns).

Gen Z: 36% named same-day delivery a top influence in future purchase decisions—highest of all groups; 87% are more likely to make online purchases if they can return in-store; 75% are more likely to purchase from retailer again if online order came with free giveaway

Millennials: 76% would add items to online carts to qualify for free shipping; 36% prefer buying online—both highest of all groups; 79% are less likely to buy from e-tailer again if delivery is delayed; 60% are more likely to purchase from e-tailer again if online order came with free giveaway

Baby Boomers: <1% expect one-day delivery—lowest of all groups; 95% of purchase decisions are "somewhat" or "greatly" influenced by shipping costs—highest of all groups

In 2015 and 2016, unboxing was a key component in the eCommerce experience. Today, fancy ribbons and scented boxes take a back seat to value-added freebies; giveaways ranked third on the list of what would motivate respondents to recommend a brand; 23% are more likely than not (43%) to buy again from brands that included a free giveaway in their order.

Top amenities influencing shoppers to recommend a brand are product quality (75%), company incentives (37%)and surprise giveaways (23%).

Clothing, Tech, Beauty Remain on Top – For the third consecutive year, items purchased most online were clothing/apparel (77%), consumer electronics/technology (52%) and beauty products (41%). What consumers are purchasing online isn't fluctuating; however, while clothing/apparel also topped the list of items respondents prefer to purchase in-store (58%), consumer electronics and beauty products dropped to eighth and sixth, respectively.

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