Free shipping or fast shipping, which do customers prefer?

Shipping Management

Shipping has quickly become the new battleground on which many online retailers fight to come out on top. Regardless of whether it’s free shipping, fast delivery or any other distribution option, merchants are trying to get their products to customers as efficiently as possible to eliminate one of the biggest pain points of shopping online.

A recent survey from eFulfillment Service noted the ongoing shipping battle and delved into what customers actually wanted. Many online retailers understand that shipping is tradeoff of the online shopping process, but they may not understand what customers actually care about when it comes to delivery.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they prefer the cheapest shipping option over expedited shipping options.

For many customers, the almighty dollar still reigns supreme. Although quick shipping is clearly a perk, the majority of consumers would rather have free shipping. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they prefer the cheapest shipping option over expedited shipping options. Although low pricing is the No. 1 reason customers return to an eCommerce website, free shipping is No. 2 on that list, while fast shipping registers at No. 14.

Moreover, 74 percent of customers said the best way to improve the consumer shopping experience was by offering free shipping. Conversely, half said to lower prices, 35 percent wanted free returns, one-quarter demanded more secure websites while only 9 percent suggested same-day delivery. To further bring home the point, only 19 percent of customers said they were unwilling to wait more than three days to receive products. Comparatively, 23 percent said waiting more than eight days was more than acceptable.

So, what does this mean for merchants? Quite clearly, the best way to appease customers is by offering free shipping and making it a priority to do so.

Free is king, but speed is no pauper

Although the eFulfillment Service report acknowledges that free shipping is what customers care most about, that doesn’t mean that speed is irrelevant. People dislike waiting for their goods to arrive and that’s one of the many reasons why in-store pickup and same-day delivery have become so popular over the years. 

Investments in order management and order fulfillment solutions can help automate order processing, which can result in less resources and more savings in the long run.

Along with providing a variety of shipping options, online retailers should always communicate updated shipping and tracking information with their customers. Customers appreciate accurate estimations of when and how their packages will arrive so they can adequately plan for their delivery. 

In order to offer free shipping and fast shipping to customers, online retailers must incur these expenses- whether it is eating the cost of free shipping or adding more resources and manpower for fast shipping. Fortunately, investments in order management and order fulfillment solutions can help automate order processing, which can result in less resources and more savings in the long run. 

Online retailers should be striving to make changes to their eCommerce operations that are necessary to sustain free shipping and fast deliveries to their customers. More merchants are doing both; streamlining order fulfillment for cost-savings that can be passed to the customer; and utilizing drop shippers to expedite the delivery process. 

If free shipping is king, then fast shipping is queen. Merchants need to offer customers both if they want to keep shoppers coming back for subsequent purchases.

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