Shoppers these days expect a variety of perks from retailers, and shipping is at the top of that list, according to Deloitte's 31st annual holiday survey of consumer spending intentions and trends, released Thursday.
Deloitte said 42% of shoppers consider three- to four-day shipping "fast" – a significant drop from the 63% who said so last year. Rather, 83% of shoppers now consider “fast” shipping to mean delivery within two days. Free shipping is also important: 71% plan to take advantage of free shipping opportunities this season.
Deloitte's study found little enthusiasm for Black Friday, with just over half of shoppers (52%) saying they won’t rely on those deals as much as they used to, and 42% saying the same thing about Cyber Monday. Less than a quarter of shoppers say they’ll do their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, and 34% say they’ll shop between Thanksgiving and the end of November. In addition, 43% plan to shop in December and January.
Retailers, spurred by Amazon, have helped set speedy delivery expectations for consumers, which will put supply chain and logistics strategies to the test this holiday season. Retailers like Target have recently increased their focus on optimizing their delivery network by adding high-level executives and improving models that ship directly to customers.
Yet, their customer-first delivery efforts don't necessarily cement loyalty, according to Deloitte's study. Nearly three quarters of those surveyed told Deloitte they will try "new or different" retailers this year; of those, two-thirds plan to try a local store or business and more than half will try a new website. Still, more than three quarters will dedicate most of their holiday budget to the retailers they favor.
"With major online retailers finding new ways to appeal to customers' needs, they are raising the bar on consumer expectations,” Deloitte vice chairman Rod Sides said in a statement. “Just within the past year, we've found a dramatic change in customers' perception on shipping. We’re seeing this trend transcend from shipping into other retail policies like returns, price matching and product availability. This could prove a challenge for retailers as they streamline purchasing, delivery and return cycles to appeal to a well-informed, efficiency-demanding group of consumers."
While retailers like Wal-Mart have been busy boosting their e-commerce efforts, that may also cut into their customers’ loyalty, considering Deloitte found shoppers less loyal when they shop online. Nearly half (48%) of those surveyed said they will go to physical stores' to be able to see and touch merchandise.
Whether in store or online, shoppers are also planning their purchases well, with fewer spontaneous holiday purchases. Less than 20% of both online and in-store purchases are unplanned, making impulse sales more difficult, Deloitte said.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page for more stories.