Many familiar key themes related to holiday shipping expectations, along with a few new ones, were front and center, in a survey issued this week by Convey, an Austin, Texas-based provider of delivery experience management software that helps shippers connect disparate data and processes from parcel to freight in the last mile.
In its annual holiday survey, entitled “Last Mile Delivery Wars: How to Keep Retail Promises and Win with Reliability,” which was based on feedback from 2,500 United States-based consumers and focused on trends and themes that Convey said will define the holiday online shopping experience for now and into the future, things like costs, and speed received top billing.
Addressing some of the key holiday shipping objectives by the survey’s respondents, 64.3%, or 3 three out of five, pointed to costs as the most important, followed by speed, at 18.7%, or one out of five respondents, which doubled 2018’s 9.7%.
“Our findings show that twice as many consumers said speed is a critical factor this year versus last year,” said Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, Convey’s Chief Growth Officer, in an interview. “We believe that the fast and free shipping now offered to an estimated 100 million Amazon Prime members is the key driver for setting these new consumer expectations.”
Another key finding showed that 28.6% of respondents cited a faster estimated delivery date (EDD) in the online shopping cart as having a “big impact on purchase decisions and that they would be more likely to buy if the order arrived within a week, whereas 7.5% indicated the shipping date does not have an impact on their likelihood to make purchases.
Addressing this finding, Newbold-Knipp said that it is important to emphasize that the 28.6% were more likely to buy if they saw an estimated delivery date of “arrive within a week” pre-purchase, at the point where the item was added to the cart.
“Given the way Amazon is shaping consumer expectations we weren’t surprised to see that two-thirds of shoppers would be more likely to buy if they saw faster estimated delivery before purchase,” she said. “Across the survey, we found that shoppers craved ‘reliability’ in their shipping services asking for deliveries to ‘arrive on time.’ The moment when a package is delivered to a customer is a crucial piece of the customer journey. This data emphasized the importance of setting proper shipping expectations for how and when the delivery will arrive — and then, of course, delivering on those brand promises.”
The ongoing growth, and importance, of last mile transportation was highlighted in the survey, with the survey citing a Business Insider report noting that 53% of retailer transportation costs come from last mile delivery.
Convey pointed out that the challenge in optimizing last mile is comparing performance across dozens of service levels, carrier partners, and fulfillment networks, coupled with analyzing the effect of delivery performance on costs and customer expectations. While the 53% of costs figure is significant, Newbold-Knipp said it is likely to head up, at least in the near-term.
“With e-commerce continuing it’s rapid growth-projected to be over $645B in revenue by 2020-the mix of transportation that is dedicated to the costly last mile will only increase,” she said. “Retailers are making trade-offs within the iron triangle of cost, speed and service to keep their customers happy. They must make investments in forward stocking, carrier mix optimization and look to innovation in final mile transportation to reduce costs – all while setting better, more reliable customer expectations.”
Other notable findings in the survey included:
Nearly 8 in 10 respondents (79.3%) cited ‘free 2-day shipping’ as important and 30.8% of respondents said ‘in-store pickup’ is important, suggesting that the alternative retailers have come to rely on as a means for competing on fast and free fulfillment pales in comparison to speedy delivery;
98.3% of respondents said they want a notification in some form if their delivery is late – up more than 10% from last year (87.8% in 2018). Shoppers overwhelmingly prefer to be notified via email (55%) and SMS (32.5%) if their package is late. By contrast, just 1 in 10 expect to have to visit a tracking page to find out about delays (10.2%);
More than 7 in 10 (72.7%) shoppers say they are unlikely to purchase from a brand again after a poor delivery experience;
Late delivery of packages is the number one concern this holiday (38.6%) followed the fear of theft, with 1 in 5 shoppers (21.9%) saying they are worried their packages will be stolen after delivery
When asked what survey findings were most surprising, Convey’s Newbold-Knipp said she was most surprised to find which shipping options had gained traction with shoppers, and which hadn’t.
“Not only do buyers demand free shipping, but they were almost twice as likely as last year to say that they want fast delivery, too,” she said. “While retailers have looked to BOPIS to off-set delivery costs, only 3 out of 10 shoppers said that this was an important shipping service-it still hasn’t caught on as a replacement for direct delivery.”
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