Can Retailers Win With the Right eCommerce Shipping Strategy?

How often have you shopped online recently? Given the challenges presented by COVID-19, specifically for retailers, it’s not surprising that more people are shopping online than before. For many, this is the best option in a tough situation.

That got us wondering how the everyday consumer approached eCommerce during this time. Specifically, we wanted to know about eCommerce shipping—how important was it? Which shipping options made shoppers want to buy? Could shipping options move the needle for eCommerce retailers during the COVID-19 pandemic?

To find out, Wiser Solutions polled more than 2,000 smartphone-enabled mystery shoppers across the U.S. and Canada at the end of March 2020. Here is what they said.

Frequency of Online Shopping

First, we wanted to understand how often these consumers shopped online. Not surprisingly, only 17 percent of survey respondents bought a product from an eCommerce retailer only a few times a year. Just 1 percent never bought online.

The rest made an online purchase at least once a month: 33 percent once or twice a month, 29 percent two or three times a month, and 20 percent five or more times a month.

Why did they buy online? The majority—53 percent—did so because of better prices and selection than in-store retailers. Another 41 percent found online shopping more convenient than brick-and-mortar. Overall, 38 percent of these consumers spent more than $25 per online purchase, while 26 percent spent more than $50 per purchase.

According to the more than 2,000 consumers polled, 98 percent said free shipping was either important or very important.

What About Shipping Times?

In summary, most consumers polled by Wiser make an online order more than once a month, with most spending more than $25 for each purchase.

But what about their shipping preferences? How does that factor into their overall behavior? To start, we wanted to know which common shipping time was the most desirable:

  1. Two-day delivery: 60 percent preferred this option the most.
  2. Standard (five-to-seven business days) delivery: 26 percent wanted this option.
  3. Same-day delivery: 11 percent chose this one.
  4. Release-date delivery: Only 2 percent liked release-date shipping the most.

Two-day shipping was the favorite of the survey respondents. Most likely, this is attributed to the popularity of Amazon and its default two-day shipping option for Amazon Prime members.

Packages in back of delivery vehicle.

How Important is Free Shipping?

So then, two days is great. But what if two-day shipping costs more money? Would that still be a winner among shoppers? Odds are, no.

According to the more than 2,000 consumers polled, 98 percent said free shipping was either important or very important. That doesn’t leave much room for interpretation: people don’t want to pay money for shipping. However, they may be willing to pay extra for shipping—in the form of more items purchased.

When asked if they would be willing to spend more to secure free shipping at checkout, 75 percent said yes. In all likelihood, there’s a psychological benefit for retailers to use free shipping as a tactic to increase basket size. Shoppers may be willing to spend $50 total on their order—but would rather spend $50 on the items and $0 on shipping than $40 on their order and $10 on shipping.

How Does Shipping Affect Consumer Behavior?

Lastly, we were curious about how the wrong shipping options provided by eCommerce retailers would affect consumer behavior. Would shoppers leave? Would they ever come back?

When polled, 69 percent of survey respondents said they would go search for a different retailer if one didn’t offer the right shipping options. In addition, 80 percent said they had, at some point, abandoned their carts over a lack of shipping options. So, not only would they look for someone who could meet their needs, they would walk away right before the finish line to do so.

However, the results were more mixed over whether they’d come to that retailer eventually. Just 55 percent said they would never return to a retailer if they had a negative delivery experience at one time. That means 45 percent would come back after abandoning their carts.

The right shipping options provided to shoppers is a difference-maker for eCommerce retailers. Moreover, free shipping is even more important, as today’s consumers don’t expect to pay for shipping and will go out of their way to avoid doing so. That means an eCommerce retailer who can deliver on shipping—especially as more people buy online—can have an advantage over their competitors.

Interested in more? Check out our infographic on this survey below:

eCommerce Shipping Preferences: How Retailers Can Win Other Shoppers

Matt Ellsworth

Matt is the Sr. Manager, Marketing & Demand at Wiser, the leading provider of actionable data for better decisions.

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