Product and price are the starting point for customer satisfaction. But shipping and delivery also play a heightened role, as consumers rarely forget a perfect product poorly delivered. This year, Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights surveyed 1,017 online shoppers regarding their shipping experiences, expectations, behavior and how environmental concerns are playing into their choices. For perspective, findings from prior years and their respective responses will illuminate consumer patterns.
Online shoppers are highly satisfied with deliveries of their online orders
With 77% of shoppers rating their deliveries over the past six months at least an eight out of 10, retailers appear to be doing their jobs. Just 15% of scores were in the six to seven above-average zone, while only 8% came in at a five or below.
Shopper satisfaction for online deliveries is at peak levels, staying strong year over year. A four-year look at ratings of eight and up shows 2023 numbers on par with the best years.
Thus, the status quo is in order as retailers try to maintain and perhaps exceed 2023’s performance. Understanding flaws and making enhancements in delivery will continue to best position retailers in the eyes of their online customers.
Online shoppers gravitate to free shipping
When online shoppers select retailers to do business with, factors that are important often tend to do with saving money. First and foremost, that means free shipping, selected as No. 1 among 82% of the respondents. Also in the top five was free return shipping, which has become a new favorite among shoppers as it enables risk-free purchasing. Thus, evaluating free return shipping as a shopping perk must be in consideration given shopper interest. And if retailers can’t or don’t choose to offer free shipping, 38% cite reasonable shipping fees as one of the most important factors in retailer selection.
Consumers rank delivery speed second, as shoppers are accustomed to receiving their orders fast in an Amazon world. Each retailer needs to assess the most desirable logistics solutions and associated costs amid heightened expectations. Next-day shipping came in at 23%, and same-day shipping was close behind at 17%. Sustainable delivery practices are just beginning to get the shoppers’ attention (8%). Lockers, while interesting, only resonate with 7% of those surveyed as a top-five most important factor.
Inventory is the third most important factor, and here, 59% cited the role of products being in stock and ready to ship. Keeping products in stock remains essential, with retailer vigilance advised. Only 10% of respondents listed product availability at a nearby store, perhaps seeing it as a given.
It was good to see that quality customer service made the top five, with a nod from 52% of survey respondents. 30% of participants also valued customer reviews about shipping experiences, as these may tell the real stories. 27% of online shoppers said they appreciate the flexibility of the retailer’s return policy affording them options as they shop. 17% cited handling returns in-stores, which was twice as important as omnichannel pickup capabilities at 8%. Physical store curbside returns, which never really saw traction, came in at a low 8%.
While almost all shoppers embrace free shipping, they also pay when circumstances warrant
Free shipping should be evaluated in light of customer preferences, though paying for shipping is routine for many shoppers. Three in four online shoppers surveyed used free shipping, yet half of shoppers paid for shipping sometimes, and 12% even paid for expedited shipping.
Same-day delivery is becoming a more important factor for online shoppers, especially given Amazon’s prowess. Experiences among surveyed online shoppers show 39% purchased same-day delivery on Amazon. Additionally, 25% bought from websites that also had physical stores, and 15% from other web-only stores beyond Amazon.
Omnichannel options must be in place and exemplary for store-based sellers. 27% of surveyed consumers bought non-grocery items using BOPIS, while 23% purchased groceries for in-store pickup and 24% had groceries delivered. App-based options will play a role for a segment of shoppers, especially when it comes to food, as 15% ordered food and 12% ordered non-food items.
Shoppers increasingly look for sustainable solutions when ordering online. 30% agree to wait longer for orders combining products, and 7% paid extra for a more sustainable delivery method.
Online shoppers makes decisions based on saving money
Customers will almost always embrace choices that allow them to save money. Survey shopping cart experiences for these shoppers reflected those sentiments. Money-saving behavior included selecting a longer shipping option to save money (46%) and abandoning an order because shipping costs were too high (36%) or because sales tax was too high (7%)
Inventory remains a concern, causing both out-of-stocks and delivery headaches for retailers and shoppers, as many shoppers don’t want to wait. Our research found that 39% abandoned an order because it was out of stock, 31% had an order delayed because of inventory or shipping issues and 23% had an order cancelled due to similar circumstances.
Shipping dates matter too. 29% abandoned an order because it would not arrive in time, delivery would be too slow (20%) or the delivery date was unclear (12%). Just 7% said they abandoned orders when same-day delivery was not available. Another 8% said they were victims of porch piracy or package theft.
More customers are starting to take positive action in support of sustainability. Actions included ordering items from a retailer that offered social/environmental benefits (21%), selecting a longer shipping option to support sustainable practices (19%) and favoring one retailer over another due to sustainability practices (11%).
Store fulfillment options have strong appeal among online shoppers
The customer’s desire for convenience means multiple touchpoints for fulfillment, pickup and returns should be in consideration.
Omnichannel is now entrenched behavior, and should be in place for store-based retailers as 38% of survey respondents used BOPIS to pick up orders while 31% used curbside options.
When it came to non-traditional touchpoints where shipments could be picked up, 14% reported using a collection point, while the same number picked up orders at an Amazon-run store or via an Amazon locker in a non-Amazon location. Just 7% had an order sent to a package delivery locker.
Monitoring adoption of return trends will ensure shopper satisfaction
The most notable trend saw 23% of online shoppers returning Amazon products to physical stores. That was even higher than the 20% who indicated they returned items inside a retailer’s store. Interestingly, 21% were simply told to keep an order and that their return would be processed. Other return models were limited in scope with the following seen: returned non-Amazon order to physical location like Happy Returns (5%), returned a non-Amazon order to a drop-off point (5%) or returned curbside (5%).
Though 57% of online shoppers have environmental concerns relative to shipping, only 34% would pay for eco-friendly policies or choose environmentally sound options.
Shoppers are increasingly expressing concern for the environment, though survey data shows they’re not necessarily willing to pay for it, with numbers as follows: concerned (57%), not concerned (20%) and no opinion (23%). There is a cost to supporting environmentally sound policies, and shoppers need to be educated about the choices they make and their environmental impact. Year over year, more online shoppers are forming opinions and taking environmental stances when it comes to shipping practices. Penetration numbers regarding environmental views were as follows (2023/2022/2021):
- Concerned: 53% vs. 50% vs. 44%
- Not concerned: 27% vs. 21% vs. 23%
- No opinion: 20% vs. 29% vs. 33%
Online shoppers are comfortable with a variety of alternative delivery experiences
Shoppers’ comfort level with non-traditional delivery experiences fluctuate, though package receptacles in front of the house still sees the greatest comfort. The 2023-2021 three-year at home and in-home delivery comfort (5+) numbers are as follows:
- Package receptacles in front of house: 71% vs. 80% vs. 76%
- In-home delivery: 52% vs. 60% vs. 54%
- In-garage delivery/package receptacles: 40% vs. 57% vs. 44%
- Self-driving vehicle delivery: 34% vs. 53% vs. 36%
- Drone delivery: 31% vs. 52% vs. 39%
Comfort with alternative delivery channels starts with guarantees
Online shoppers want guarantees for any issues that may arise. 54% most want guarantees from retailers, and delivery companies are close behind at 53%. Information provides additional comfort among shoppers and that might include:
- Feedback from other online shoppers: 33%
- From reputable sources: 28%
- From delivery company: 27%
- From retailer: 24%
Location and security set up factor into consumers being more comfortable. Home and garage security systems provide the greatest comfort for 28% of online shoppers.
Some respondents say they would feel safer depending on their location, as cited by 26%. 16% mentioned neighborhood crime as the reason they didn’t feel comfortable with alternate delivery.
Shopper satisfaction is strong when it comes to shipping and delivery. Free shipping, fast delivery and in stock products continue to drive selection for consumers. Retailers should reassess how free shipping is used in their arsenal and test periodically. Monitoring same-day delivery options means understanding the competitive landscape and changing customer desires. Money savings and speed of delivery will always be in vogue. Here’s hoping that both retailers and customers enable environmental options so we all have solutions in place that deliver for our planet. We’re all in this together.
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