Free shipping is much more important to holiday shoppers than fast shipping for an additional fee and about 65% of shoppers think they should be able to order items online after Dec. 17 and still get free shipping, according Deloitte’s 32nd Annual Holiday Survey of consumer spending intentions and trends.
About 88% of shoppers surveyed said free shipping is more important, compared with just 12% who said fast shipping was more important. About 72% of respondents said they plan to take advantage of free shipping offers this holiday season.
Shoppers also are showing a negative attitude toward extra fees required for expedited shipping programs, as 64% of respondents said they would not be willing pay extra for two-day shipping. Respondents also indicated they would pay, on average, just under four dollars ($3.80) to guarantee next-day delivery.
The definition of what constitutes "fast shipping" appears to be changing as more retailers and delivery companies offer expedited shipping programs, according to the Deloitte study. About 54% of holiday shoppers surveyed said "fast shipping" means delivery in two days or less. About 35% said they consider three to four day shipping "fast," but that percentage has been falling in recent years, down from 42% last year and 63% in 2015.
Are customers getting spoiled by all the shipping flexibility? How else to explain the majority of holiday shoppers surveyed believing they should be able to get both free and fast shipping so late in the holiday season?
Perhaps Amazon Prime is to blame. The wildly successful program offers both expedited and free shipping to its members. Of course Prime isn’t free, it costs about $100 per year, but Amazon has been so aggressive about adding other benefits to this program it really does feel like free shipping.
Meanwhile, retailers are finding other ways to redefine both fast and free. More merchants have started offering buy online/pick-up in-store and 43% of shoppers surveyed said they plan to take advantage of these BOPIS programs this holiday season. About 62% of survey respondents cited saving on shipping charges as the No.1 reason to buy online and pick up in-store, followed by 48% who said they do so to get the item faster.
Shopper attitudes about product return policies are shifting, too. Roughly 67% of those surveyed want the option to return to any store location, and 63% are looking for refund options other than the offer of a store credit. About 51% of survey respondents said they want a longer return window around the holidays, ranging from 30 to 90 days, and 41% want the option to return without a receipt.
The survey, which was conducted online by an independent research company during September and was compiled from responses from 5,085 consumers, also had some observations on where and how consumers will shop this holiday season. The majority of holiday spending among survey respondents is expected to head online, with shoppers putting more than half (51%) of their budgets toward online purchases versus in-store (42%).