Most Consumers Willing to Wait If It Ships Free

Today’s “flex consumer” is channel agnostic and willing to wait longer to receive items purchased online if it means free shipping, according to a new survey released today by UPS and comScore.

According to the third annual joint survey, which polled 5,849 consumers in February and March 2014, four out of five respondents said free shipping is an important consideration when making an online purchase, while 83% said they were willing to wait an additional two days or more if it meant they didn’t have to pay the freight. Also, half of consumers said they would choose a slower transit time to get free shipping.

Consumers won’t wait forever, though, so retailers have to provide reasonable delivery schedules, UPS and comScore found. Half of survey respondents said they had abandoned an online shopping cart due to lengthy delivery times or no date provided at checkout.

[Check out more content from IRCE 2014 here]

Speaking to the demand for flexibility and convenience, more than 50% of respondents said they will opt for ship-to-store at some point – with 40% of those consumers making other purchases during their visit – while one in four packages shipped are directed somewhere other than the home address (i.e. carrier retail stores, retail outlets, office). In addition, 82% of shoppers liked the option to return product to the store or ship it back using a free prepaid label.

With channel choice mattering less than convenience and flexibility – and with continuous improvements to shipping and fulfillment capabilities – retailers need to differentiate themselves by delivering both compelling online and in-store shopping experiences and exceptional service, the survey found.

Bala Ganesh, director of marketing for UPS, said consumers are asking for more shipping destination options, including ship to store, to the office or to a family member. “This trend fits in with people’s busy lifestyles, and their demand for convenience and flexibility,” he said.

Speaking of the customer experience, retailers have some work to do in that regard, UPS and comScore found:

  • Fifty-nine percent of consumers said they were satisfied with the ability to find a customer service phone number or other contact option during the search/browse phase of their shopping experience.
  • Fifty percent of consumers said they were satisfied with the ease of making a return and the clarity of retailers’ policies.
  • Forty-four percent were satisfied with the post-shipment flexibility to choose another delivery date, while 43% are content with the ability to reroute a package.
  • Sixty percent of shoppers were satisfied with the ability to find a retailer’s return policy.

The growing impact of m-commerce was also seen in the survey findings. Forty percent of mobile users said they look for or redeem coupons on their devices, while 36% said they compare prices in store on their smartphones. However, laptop/desktop remains the primary choice for both researching products (61% of respondents) and purchasing (44%), compared to 21% and 11%, respectively, for smartphones and tablets.

More consumers are checking out retailers’ return policies before purchasing an item online, and many are choosing options to get free or reduced shipping.

More consumers are checking out a retailer’s return policy prior to purchase, while pursuing options for free shipping, said Susan Engleson, senior director at comScore.

“Two years ago, 17% of consumers said they didn’t look at a retailers’ return policy before purchasing, but this year it was just 11%,” Engleson said. “More 90% said they would take action to qualify for free shipping, 58% they would add more items to their cart to qualify, and , 50% said they would choose the slowest shipping time to qualify.”

The desire of consumers for a full range of delivery options at checkout, and for convenience and flexible returns, should be key areas of focus for retailers, Engleson said.

Some comparison of metrics from past surveys:

•          Overall satisfaction with online shopping stayed the same from 2013, at 83%

•          Since 2012, retail returns volumes have grown (62% say they have returned/exchanged an item bought online in the 2014 study versus 51% in 2012)

•          Online shopping cart abandonment has grown (90% have abandoned an online shopping cart in 2014 versus 88% in 2013)

Among the report’s recommendations for retailers to improve the customer experience from a fulfillment standpoint:

  • Provide easy access to the returns policy throughout the site and in post-purchase communications; make customer service contacts readily available
  • Offer different shipping options to accommodate shopper needs; display the expected delivery date in the shopping cart
  • Assess whether you can absorb free shipping costs as a marketing expense, and how to preserve margin while remaining competitive
  • Include a return label in the box, or at least make it easy for shoppers to print a return label from your website
  • Let shoppers know about availability on both the product page and in the shopping cart; provide notification tools (email, text) when items becomes available to capture sales