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Shipping Costs More Important to Holiday Shoppers than Speed

The convenience and proliferation of year-round ecommerce sales and discounting is causing consumers to place much less emphasis on traditional Black Friday sales. In the second annual JDA Consumer Survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted by JDA Software Group, Inc., nearly 3 in 4 respondents (73 percent) say they prefer to do their holiday shopping outside of the holiday season, during ecommerce sales, such as Amazon Prime Day. Forty-seven percent of respondents plan to skip Black Friday or Cyber Monday altogether this year.

Additionally, among the respondents who shopped primarily in-store for Black Friday deals in 2015, 34 percent are changing their behavior; reporting that this year they plan to shop equally online and in-store (20 percent), or even primarily online (31 percent).

“Consumers continue to be less influenced by the Black Friday holiday deals and are expecting retailers to provide them with more personalized options throughout the year,” said Jim Prewitt, vice president of retail industry strategy at JDA Software. “Amazon Prime Day was a hit this summer, it’s interesting to see how much of an impact it had on our survey respondents and their holiday shopping plans. Its popularity will cause many retailers to not only revisit their holiday sales strategy but how they compete throughout the year.”

Consumers Demand Free Shipping and Easy Home Delivery 
Despite retailers’ growing focus on speedy delivery options (1-hour or next day delivery), 56 percent of consumers say cost is still the most important factor they consider when placing an online home delivery order. One in four consumers claim they do not shop anywhere that does not offer free shipping. Almost half of respondents (46 percent) claim they are willing to pay for shipping for a particular priority item this holiday season, but they generally prefer to shop with retailers who offer free shipping.

Free shipping remains such a high priority for consumers that 69 percent of respondents have spent more than they planned, just to reach the minimum threshold to receive free shipping. This trend is particularly prevalent during the holiday season, with 80 percent of respondents who shopped primarily online during Black Friday/Cyber Monday last year claiming that they spent more than they intended in order to meet a free shipping threshold.

Retailers and ecommerce seem to be improving when it comes to home deliveries, with 75 percent of consumers reporting they have not experienced an issue in the last 12 months. However, there is still room for improvement and one of the most common errors consumers report experiencing is also the most intolerable. Of those who did have an issue in the last 12 months, 29 percent of respondents said they did not receive an item and the retailer/delivery company claimed the delivery was made. This is interesting since nearly 44 percent of all respondents stated this was the most serious issue that would cause them to no longer shop with a retailer. Overall, retailers are more likely to be blamed for any home delivery issues (55 percent) over shipping companies (45 percent).

“Given the rise in ecommerce, retailers are grappling with the demands of an always on supply chain,” said Prewitt. “With the continued proliferation of sales and discounting and the challenge of satisfying consumer demand across channels, retailers and manufacturers need an agile supply chain capable of keeping up with changing consumer behavior to better manage inventory and profitability.”

Buy Online Pick-up in Store is a Time Saver for Consumers, When Done Correctly 
Recent holiday hiring announcements by major retailers indicate an increased need for staff to support omni-channel fulfillment options, like “Buy online pick-up in store” (BOPIS). This corresponds with the survey results that found almost half of respondents (46 percent) have used BOPIS options in the last 12 months, a nearly 33 percent increase from the 2015 JDA Consumer Survey. The convenience of the service seems to be the primary driver of growing adoption rates, with 39 percent using it to avoid home delivery charges and 31 percent wanting the product sooner.

While BOPIS services have become more popular, retailers are still figuring out how to streamline the process and manage mounting customer expectations. Forty percent of the respondents who have leveraged BOPIS in the last 12 months have experienced a problem. Of those problems, staff-related issues seem to be most predominant, with 22 percent of respondents reporting that store associates took a long time or were unable to find their order, and 15 percent reporting a lack of dedicated BOPIS staff to assist with pick-ups.

“This year’s survey results showcase the increased demand for additional omni-channel support,” said Prewitt. “Given the condensed holiday calendar – Hanukkah starting on December 24 and Christmas on a Sunday – retailers have to carefully consider their workforce planning for both in-store, omni-channel support and additional staffing at distribution centers.”

Consumers Want More Convenient In-Store Returns in Response to Shipping Frustrations 
Half of consumers (50 percent) find having to pay for return postage and packaging the most frustrating part of returning online items. While 80 percent of consumers have not used “Buy online return in store” (BORIS) services in the last 12 months, 67 percent of respondents would prefer to return an online purchase to a store than through the mail. Of those who have used BORIS services in the last 12 months, 40 percent did so to avoid the hassle of return deliveries.

“As BOPIS is continuing to grow and BORIS is emerging as a core capability to the consumer, more retailers are more likely to merge the lines between online and in-store for both purchases and returns,” said Prewitt. “Of the respondents who have used BOPIS in the last 12 months, 32 percent have also used BORIS services. This only drives home the need for retailers to increase options to meet the demands of digital consumers who continue to influence shopping trends.”

Sales Associates Still Matter for Consumer Purchases 
As more sales associates are needed for omni-channel fulfillment, they are also needed on the store floor for overall customer service assistance. Despite the fact that technology is continuing to influence and change shopping behaviors, nearly 70 percent of respondents rely on the support of in-store sales associates in some way.

While additional staffing will be needed to support additional foot traffic, the holiday shopping season overall seems to have little bearing on shoppers’ reliance on in-store sales associates. Eighty percent of all respondents say they do not rely on sales associates any more than usual during the holiday season.

Access the full survey findings and methodology from the JDA 2016 Consumer Survey here.

SourceJDA.com Press Release

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.