The recently released 2016 Walker Sands Future of Retail Study reinforced a simple truth that we at Clarus Commerce have known and embraced since e-commerce was invented: In the eyes of consumers, free shipping remains the undisputed champion of online offers. It’s their biggest incentive for shopping more often at retail sites — more appealing and important than one-day delivery, same-day shipping, or any other checkout option or retailer policy.
The promise of free delivery has always had this type of allure for direct marketing audiences, from catalog shoppers to late-night infomercial customers. As e-commerce keeps pulling more consumers into its orbit — both in overall numbers and in terms of their purchase frequency — the power of free shipping continues to grow alongside it. According to the Walker Sands study:
- 31% of U.S. consumers now shop online at least once a week, up from 22% in 2014.
- 75% make at least one online purchase a month, up from 62% two years ago.
- On the flip side, only 27% shop online less than once a month, down from 38% two years ago.
- In 2016, 88% of consumers say a free shipping offer would make them more likely to shop online, a 10% jump from 2014 figures.
- Free shipping is the top incentive for consumers at all purchase frequency levels, from once a year to multiple times every week.
These findings are fully supported by mountains of other research on the power of free shipping, which has been proven to be:
- More popular than any other offer;
- The most important option available to customers during checkout;
- Perhaps the bestway to enhance an online shopper’s experience;
- Nearly seven times more popular than fast shipping for gift buyers; and
- An all-but-guaranteed way to get shoppers to open up their wallets.
Further confirmation of free shipping’s unmatched ability to influence online shoppers wasn’t the only useful information generated by the Walker Sands study. It also verified the value of customer-friendly return policies. In fact, free returns are the third-biggest purchase driver among the most and least frequent online shopping groups — and the second-biggest driver among people who shop online between 7 and 24 times a year.
Since these are the consumers who are most likely to join the group of weekly online shoppers in the future, catering to their interests will help retailers gain their business — and their loyalty. After all, research shows that:
- 88% of consumers say free return shipping is an important factor in their purchase decisions;
- 81% are less likely to make repeat purchases at retail sites that charge them for return shipping;
- 41% are more likely to make an online purchase if the retailer offers free returns; and
- 95% say they’d shop again at a retail site if they had a positive return experience.
The best way to build loyalty is to give customers what they want, i.e., free shipping and free return shipping, as innumerable studies have shown. Capturing a significant portion of the growing audience of online shoppers is also critical to the success of every retailer, of course, but figuring out how to affordably offer customers those proven purchase incentives can be a challenge.
That’s where Clarus Commerce comes in: With our experience and expertise in e-commerce subscription programs, we can craft a customized loyalty solution that will help you retain and expand your core audience — and strengthen your bottom line at the same time. To find out what Clarus Commerce can do for you, call us at 860-358-9198, ext. 127, or email us at BusDev@ClarusCommerce.com.