The importance of offering consumers different shipping options during the holiday season has grown considerably in the past year, while free shipping still trumps fast, according to a new survey from Pitney Bowes.
In the online survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted in August by ORC International, 93% said shipping options were an important factor during the holidays, up from 70% in 2014. Fifty-six percent said they were very important, while 36% said they’re somewhat important.
When it comes to free vs. fast, 88% of respondents said free shipping, with the item arriving in 5-7 days, was the most attractive option, up from 82% last year. Twelve percent said they’d rather pay a fee for 1-2 day shipping.
“Options are no longer a privilege during the shopping experience,” said Christoph Stehmann, Chief Operating Officer of Digital Commerce Solutions for Pitney Bowes. “This holiday season consumers will expect the ability to choose their preference. Retailers must focus on offering diverse options, whether for shopping channel, shipping and return methods or even promotional offers in order to attract consumers throughout their shopping experiences.”
The finding on free vs. fast is not too surprising, as the UPS/comScore Pulse of the Online Shopper found the same thing a couple months ago. But, Stehmann said, the results might be speaking to the same person at different times or in different circumstances.
“It could be that, for everyday purchases it’s ok to get it in 5-7 days, but if I forgot my wife’s birthday again, I want it that day or the next day,” he said. “It’s really more situational. They also want options for having it delivered to their home or to work or a store nearby, and also want options for returning it through various mechanisms, to the shipper or to a store.”
About the same number of respondents to the Pitney Bowes survey, 39% to 38%, favored in-store returns and sending it back to the shipper.
The survey found consumers are willing to do what it takes to meet the free shipping threshold: 60% said they’ve increased online spending to qualify for the perk. Alternatively, 68% said they’ve used a promotional code or coupon for a shipping discount; 80% said they’d be more willing to purchase online if they had the discount.
In terms of holiday shopping waves, the Pitney Bowes survey found:
• 30% percent will shop before Thanksgiving
• 41% will shop from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday
• 26% will shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday
• 17% will shop on Cyber Monday
• 34% will shop during December