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Report: Shipping Options Can Carry as Much Weight as Actual Products in Online Shopping

In the eyes of online retailers, shipping might not appear to be the most meaningful step in the path to purchase. But for consumers, shipping options—and experiences—can represent critical decision-making factors.

According to recently released data by Big Commerce, a provider of SaaS technology for e-commerce platforms, a brand or retailer’s shipping options can carry as much weight with consumers as the actual products they’re buying.

An astounding 77 percent of the survey’s 3,000 consumer respondents said they had abandoned a potential online purchase because they were deterred by unsatisfactory shipping options. What’s more, 58 percent said they were put off of shopping with certain retailers altogether due to negative shipping experiences.

On the flip side, many of the survey’s 800 retailer respondents expressed ignorance about the way shipping impacted their businesses. Nearly half (47 percent) admitted they had no knowledge of their cart abandonment rates, or the ways shipping options might factor into consumers’ actions.

While e-tailers generally feel they lack a line of sight into the consumer’s psyche, they are aware that shopper expectations have changed in the age of Amazon. The majority (68 percent) of online merchants said Amazon’s Prime shipping options put unfair pressure on independent retailers (and that was before the company rolled out its one-day shipping option). The vast majority of the surveyed retailers (80 percent) handle their own product fulfillment rather than relying on third-party logistics providers (3PLs), making it tough to keep up with the consumer demand for fast, free shipping.

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The reality remains that those options are make-or-break for shoppers. Over the past year, most respondents (84 percent) said they had made a purchase online on the basis of free shipping, and half said they actively avoid shopping with companies that charge. By contrast, the survey found that only 13 percent of online retailers offer free shipping on all purchases, though more than a third (39 percent) offer free shipping on purchases that exceed a certain dollar amount.

Though it might seem like a transparent ploy, consumers are willing to spend more to meet the free shipping threshold. The dangling carrot of free shipping was enough to incentivize 84 percent of consumer respondents to add items to their carts in order to meet the minimum over the past year. A third (33 percent) of millennial shoppers copped to doing it quite regularly.

So while retailers and shoppers are out of sync when it comes to expectations and delivery, there are some opportunities for online sellers looking to do better. Offering free shipping with a minimum order value, while not ideal for many consumers accustomed to the luxury of Amazon Prime’s one to two day shipping, can definitively sway purchase decisions.

“Retailers need to take into account a number of critical factors to make a meaningful difference in e-commerce shipping, and finally bring it to a level playing field with the rest of the e-commerce experience,” said Jimmy Duvall, chief product officer at BigCommerce.

It’s not enough for online stores to provide a compelling shopping experience or enticing product. Instead, Duvall stresses shipping’s role in providing “experiences that drive conversion and continued loyalty” for online retailers.