Consumers Open Up About Holiday Shipping Preferences

gift-shipping-300Which is more important in the eyes of the consumer this holiday: free shipping, delivery tracking, shipping options, or overall shipping costs? The answer, well, all depends on which demographic you are trying to secure, according to a recent consumer survey conducted by Pitney Bowes.

Pitney Bowes polled over 1,000 American consumers and found of that nearly half of those say they have paid more attention to shipping as a part of the overall shopping experience in 2013 compared to 2010.

“Shipping has become a considerable factor in consumers’ buying choices. In fact, there’s now a blurred line between the decision on a shipping method and the selection of a product when comes to the overall buying decision and customer experience and free shipping is just table stakes today,” said Jim Hendrickson, vice president and general manager of shipping solutions, Pitney Bowes, said in a press release.

The cost of delivery plays a major role in the eyes of the consumer, in fact, 77% of those surveyed said free shipping “is much more attractive” than fast shipping.  The demographic of those who prefer free shipping maybe not be who you expect, according to the survey, 85% of those who make $50,000 or more prefer a free shipping option and 84% of those with a college degrees compared to 70% with a high school education or less prefer free shipping.

The price is so important to consumers that 49% said that they have abandoned their shopping carts due to shipping carts alone. So who is more likely to abandon a shopping cart due to costs:

  • 55% of women versus 43% of men
  • 53% of 18 to 64 years olds versus 29% of 65 years of age and up
  • 57% of those college educated versus 39% with a high school education or below

For those who have abandoned a purchase due to the shipping cost, respondents told Pitney Bowes that $20 was the average shipping cost. Men, according to the survey, have a higher threshold for shipping costs with $24 and women prefer cheaper shipping options with an average cost of $17.

The ability to track a package is also a major focal point for consumers. Thirty-percent of those surveyed said they generally track a package one or twice during the shipping process, 21% track the package between three and five times, 30% track it six or more times, and 17% said they never track their package.

The fulfillment process doesn’t end the moment the package arrives at the door. As merchants, and consumers, know all too well, items in many cases do have to be returned for one reason or another. In fact, of the 89% of American consumers who have made a purchase in 2013, 46% of those returned a purchase via the mail.

What does this mean for merchants? Simply put, shipping matters to consumers. In particular, a wide variety of shipping options such as fees, tracking, and return options should be made available in order to offer the best shopping experience to consumers this holiday season.

Erin Lynch is the senior content producer at Multichannel Merchant. Erin can be reached (203)899-8461 or connect with her socially on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.