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AlixPartners Survey Finds Free, Fast Shipping is a Must for Wooing Online Shoppers

In news that’s shocking to no one, U.S. consumers want—nay, expect—faster, cheaper shipping.

Consulting firm AlixPartners in April surveyed more than 1,000 adults, evenly split between men and women and across several key demographics and income ranges, and discovered that almost all (94 percent) had made an online purchase in the past 12 months, with clothing and shoes ranked as the number one category. Furthermore, 48 percent said they buy something online at least once per month.

Here’s the kicker: not only did 97 percent of respondents say complimentary shipping impacts the purchase decision, one-third said they won’t wait longer than three days for their free shipment (and 54 percent of those were Amazon Prime members).

Moreover, only 60 percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to wait five days or longer for their orders. That’s down from 74 percent in 2012.

But while consumers expect faster shipping, they don’t particularly care for same-day delivery or in-store pick-up, and most don’t plan to significantly use those services more in future.

In addition, though they consider free shipping to be the “price of admission,” respondents said they would be willing to spend between $4 and $6 for same-day delivery, while 20 percent said they would pay more than $10 for heavy or expensive items.

Not only do these increasingly fickle shoppers want to receive their online orders faster, most also prefer the ability to filter available products by their intended fulfillment method or timing. To that end, AlixPartners said retailers could potentially drive better margin and increase store traffic by signaling that a shopper’s selections are available for pick-up in a local store that same day. Yes, even though consumers said they don’t plan on making use of in-store pick-up, they still want the option.

In the 10-plus years since Amazon introduced its Prime service (which costs $99 per year and offers free one- or two-day shipping on most items, among other perks), its U.S. memberships have jumped to 54 million, as per recent estimates. But AlixPartners said that number could plummet if the company hikes its annual membership fee.

And while eBay and Walmart have introduced similar—but cheaper—spins on Prime, only 37 percent of those surveyed said they would be interested in a premium, free expedited shipping service from their preferred retailer and would only be willing to pay $30 per year.