Free Trumps Speed for Holiday Shipping Policies

Consumers expect to hear knocks on their door from delivery services well into the holiday week and for no cost at all, according to Deloitte’s 30th annual holiday survey of consumer spending intentions and trends.

Furthermore, the ubiquity of personal mobile devices allows consumers to take their time researching purchases and store policies giving them opportunity to request exactly what they want. The survey also reveals cybersecurity concerns are generally not slowing shoppers down.

Among the findings:

Free shipping listed as top retailer policy preferred by shoppers; customers expect even more perks 

  • Free shipping is the top priority for shoppers when it comes to retail policies with 72 percent of responding consumers planning to take full advantage of the perk.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 shoppers (87 percent) prioritized free shipping over fast shipping (13 percent) when purchasing gifts shopping online.
  • In fact, 60 percent of consumers think they could order after Dec. 17 – just one week prior to Christmas Eve – and still receive free shipping.
  • Despite shoppers expecting free shipping to be fast, they are not willing to pay much to expedite their shipping. On average, respondents were willing to pay only an additional $5.10 for same-day delivery.  

Mobile purchases rise this year; many minds made up before the store visit

  • Shoppers we surveyed expect 57 percent of their purchases will be on specific items they planned before going to a specific store or website. Just under one-quarter (24 percent) expect to get inspiration from the store or website, and less than 1 in 5 (19 percent) expect to make completely unplanned purchases.
  • Mobile device ownership is at an all-time high: 77 percent of surveyed consumers own a smartphone, 56 percent own a tablet, and almost half (49 percent) own both a smartphone and a tablet.
  • Among the 78 percent of smartphone owners who plan to use their devices for holiday shopping, the top uses include researching store locations (60 percent), price checking and comparisons (55 percent) and online shopping or browsing (50 percent).
  • A growing number of smartphone-toting holiday shoppers (41 percent) are using their devices to make purchases online, up 6 percentage points from last year.
  • Social media continues to influence holiday shoppers with 76 percent of all respondents active on social media websites (blogs, discussion boards or social networks), an increase of 4 percentage points from last year.
  • While 82 percent of shoppers plan to use the Internet to research their holiday purchases, 60 percent expect to follow recommendations from online retailers specifically.
  • In the store, shoppers prefer self-help technologies that expedite the buying process over other in-store technologies. Topping the list are price checkers (57 percent) and self-checkout payment lanes (41 percent), well ahead of other tools including kiosks, retailer mobile apps, mobile payments, handheld product scanners, electronic shelf labelling, video screens, beacons and digital signage – all of which came in under 20 percent. 

Shoppers remember recently breached retailers, but are not dissuaded from purchasing 

  • Of all respondents surveyed, 81 percent are concerned about retailers that have experienced a data breach, up 5 percentage points from 2014; however, more than half of consumers (54 percent) plan to continue shopping at retailers with data breaches in their past.
  • More consumers are concerned about their personal data when shopping online (54 percent) than in the physical stores (41 percent).
  • Top concerns for shoppers in terms of data compromises include, in order, loss or theft of identity (83 percent), fraud (78 percent), inconveniences from dealing with data compromises (74 percent), monetary damages (64 percent), and stolen social security numbers (62 percent).
  • Website familiarity eases shopper tension with 72 percent mentioning they feel safer shopping online at a website they have shopped at in the past.
  • Shoppers also say they feel safer when the website encrypts data (69 percent), uses security certificates (66 percent), offers free consumer protection services (64 percent), offers a brand they trust (56 percent) and is a site others they know have shopped at (54 percent). 

Tis the season for big promotions, but unique local gifts still dazzle 

  • While respondents expect to spend 12.5 percent more on gifts and non-gift items for the holidays overall, 67 percent plan to buy items on sale and 47 percent plan to use store coupons while shopping.
  • While the majority of consumers (75 percent) surveyed say they plan to remain loyal to certain retailers, the No. 1 motivator for consumers to try a new store or website is to seek better prices (70 percent).
  • In regards to refund policies, nearly half of consumers (48 percent) responding cite refund options, not including store credit, as the most desirable policy. They also considered returns without restocking fees (40 percent) and free online returns (39 percent) desirable.
  • Seven in 10 (70 percent) plan to shop local this holiday season, primarily to support the local economy (59 percent) and find one-of-a-kind gifts (54 percent).  Roughly 4 in 10 go local for convenience (42 percent) and excellent customer service (38 percent).

“Consumers value their time as much as dollars saved. So when it comes to shipping their holiday purchases bought online, they are expecting free shipping and they want options to get it delivered quickly,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail and distribution practice leader. “With consumers spending more time comparing prices and policies for the holiday season, they are going to seek out the retailers who offer them exactly what they like. The challenge for retailers is that free and fast shipping are standards year-round, potentially causing a disruption for the industry as a whole as they redefine the supply chain process to be more efficient.”

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