Consumers Willing to Wait, But Not Pay for Shipping

consumers doing stuff

While consumers may be understanding of delays caused by – you guessed it – supply chain issues, they are less forgiving when it comes to being charged for shipping, even as more retailers move away from the free model and its challenging economics.

According to an annual survey from Dotcom Distribution, 55% of consumers said they understand that orders will take longer to arrive than in the past. But while 72% of that group said they are tolerant of delays due to supply chain backlogs, just 25% said this made them more tolerant of shipping costs.

Also concerning to shippers, 41% of those responding to the survey said they weren’t willing to pay more for faster shipping, while only 12% said they weren’t willing to wait longer for orders to arrive.

Most of all, it seems, consumers hate checkout surprises. Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents said they’ve abandoned a shopping cart in the past year when they encountered an “unanticipated shipping cost.” Unlike other questions, there was relative consistency across age groups, between 75% (60 years and older) and 82% (30-44 years). This highlights the need for retailers to provide greater transparency and upfront communication of shipping options and costs at checkout.

On a somewhat positive note, at least for those with a physical as well as an online presence, 25% of shoppers in the survey said they’re more likely to buy online and pick up in store as a result of the “new normal” (no, we are unlikely to ever move beyond that term). This tendency as you might expect skews younger, with 35% of 18-29-year-old saying they’re more likely to practice BOPIS, while just 13% of those over 60 favor it. It’s also of course a huge win in terms of fulfillment costs.

The supply chain delays are also impacting the way consumer shop, with 65% of those responding to the Dotcom survey saying their habits have changed. Of those, nearly half (49%) said they’re more likely to check a store’s website for in-store availability before heading out, while roughly a quarter (24%) have made fewer purchases from their favorite stores and brands. Another 17% said they’ve pivoted to store shopping from online, seemingly trusting retail replenishment over ecommerce fulfillment inventories.

With more retailers such as Gap, American Eagle Outfitters, Target and Walmart opting to let consumers just keep unwanted items due to the high unit economics of many low-value returns, the Dotcom survey found this practice actually has a positive halo effect.

More than half of respondents (51%) said this option makes them want to purchase from a brand again, up 11% from the 2021 survey. In a proof point of the rise of values-based shoppers, 34% said offering return-less refunds made them want to donate the item, up from 23% in 2021, while a third said it made them feel the brand cared about the environment, an increase from 27% last year.

“Offering returnless refunds is not an option for every retailer, and the efficacy varies based on the product and why it’s being returned,” said Dotcom Distribution founder and CEO Maria Haggerty. “But taking into account the costs of return shipping, labor for restocking and refurbishment or destruction, the cost of a return to a business can easily end up being more than the product is worth.”

The eighth annual survey, conducted through SurveyMonkey, polled 1,150 online shoppers in March 2022.