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Shipping Influences Purchases More than Product, Price and Customer Service, Survey Finds

With 70 percent of consumers doing the majority of their shopping online, shipping and return experiences are having a greater impact on the shopping journey.

According to a report from e-commerce shipping software firm ShipStation, a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep is essentially the last touchpoint consumers have with a brand or retailer once they’ve tapped the “buy” button and checkout is complete.

“Our study shows that consumers are placing more value on aspects of the customer journey outside of the in-store and online discovery experience,” said ShipStation general manager John Kinny, noting that shipping can no longer be an afterthought for retailers as nearly “100 percent of consumers consider shipping when purchasing online, even more so than other major factors like product selection, price or customer service.”

In the company’s latest study, seven out of 10 shoppers said they consider shipping speed and cost more today than they did a year ago, and even more so among millennials who indicated that delivery speed and shipping fees equal product selection and price in importance.

Shipping experiences can influence a customer’s long-term loyalty, the study found, and the risks can be steep when brands get it wrong. Ninety percent of consumers said bungled shipping negatively impacts their perception of the retailer, while for 88 percent, a poor experience means they’ll skip shopping with that merchant in the future.

Reverse logistics plays a role, too. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) said return policies directly influence their online purchase decisions, with 92 percent of consumers surveyed agreeing that brands should offer free returns. They also indicated that they want hassle-free returns, with 86 percent noting that the returns process should be self-service so they don’t have to reach out to a customer service representative.

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Though shipping typically is managed through third-party providers, most consumers (85 percent) believe retailers bear the responsibility for ensuring orders are delivered on time and as expected. In fact, carriers can emerge from a shipping debacle relatively unscathed; 75 percent of survey takers said a negative shipping experience looks worse for the retailer than it does for the delivery courier.

How the retailer handles an error is also important. Of those surveyed, 91 percent said a retailer’s apology and tangible make-up for any misfires goes a long way toward ensuring they’ll shop that brand again. What’s more, more than half (52 percent) of consumers said that if the retailer does something to make up for a bad shipping experience, they would share a positive post about the make-good on social media.