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Free-Shipping Report: Surprise, People Want Free Things

National Retail Federation
National Retail Federation Free Shipping Report shows People Want Free Things

The National Retail Federation (NRF) said a study it conducted found “more online shoppers want free shipping.” While the headline above is facetious, it’s true that online sellers are frustrated over the expectations large retailers and marketplaces are setting when it comes to shipping.

“Consumers increasingly expect free delivery of items they buy online and are also embracing new options like picking up their online purchases at a local store, according to the latest issue of the quarterly Consumer View report released today by the National Retail Federation,” the NRF wrote.

EcommerceBytes has observed a movement by sellers to urge marketplaces like eBay to use the term “shipping included” instead of “free shipping,” because, as they point out, there’s no such thing as free shipping.

However, the NRF study makes an interesting new point: shoppers are willing to meet retailers half way to get free delivery, according to NRF Vice President for Research Development and Industry Analysis Mark Mathews.

The press release included some interesting findings from its study, such as this finding: 75 percent of consumers surveyed expect delivery to be free even on orders under $50, up from 68 percent a year ago.

The NRF study found some definite generational differences: Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) demand free shipping the most, with 88 percent expecting it. That compares with 77 percent for Generation X (1965-1980), 61 percent for millennials (1981-1994) and 76 percent for Generation Z (1995 and later).

Additional findings include the following:

  • Many consumers now consider shipping costs even before getting to the checkout page, with 65 percent saying they look up free-shipping thresholds before adding items to their online shopping carts. Consumers also want their products fast, with 39 percent expecting two-day shipping to be free, and 29 percent have backed out of a purchase because two-day shipping wasn’t free.
  • The survey found that 70 percent of consumers who are aware of buying online and picking up in store had tried it, and the top reason for doing so was to avoid paying for shipping. Picking up at the cash register is still the most frequent practice, done by 83 percent of those who have bought online and picked up in-store. But as options grow, 63 percent would like to be able to use curbside pickup (tried so far by only 27 percent), 56 percent want merchandise delivered to the trunk of their cars (tried by 19 percent) and 50 percent want to retrieve purchases from a locker (tried by 16 percent).
  • Whether they are in a store to pick up an online purchase or there to shop, consumers are attracted by special events. The survey found 58 percent are interested in going to retail events, with 87 percent saying they would come in for a sale or early/exclusive access to items, 81 percent for a party, 80 percent for a product demonstration, 71 percent for a game or competition, and 69 percent to interact with a product expert or to visit a pop-up shop.

About the study: Consumer View is a quarterly report issued by NRF that gauges consumer behavior and shopping trends related to stores, online channels, customer loyalty, technology and other topics. Toluna Analytics surveyed 3,002 U.S. adults 18 or older for NRF October 23 through November 30, 2018. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

You can find the full press release on the NRF website.

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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/.

One thought on “Free-Shipping Report: Surprise, People Want Free Things”

  1. Consumers would not only like free shipping and free goods. By the way things are heading sellers will end up paying consumers to “take things off their hands”.

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