With the growth of e-commerce and the increasing amount of options at consumers’ fingertips, the market is ripe for innovation. Good customer service isn’t just a nice-to-have, but a must-have. E-commerce sales are projected to reach $604.2 billion by 2020, making it essential for marketers and retailers to listen to their customers and be strategic with what e-commerce strategies they prioritize to meet expectations.
Radial recently surveyed more than 2,000 consumers across the United States and Canada to examine their online shopping priorities and understand what the most important pieces of the e-commerce journey are.
Consumers Are Easing Up on Delivery Speed Expectations
In 2017, only 16.7 percent of U.S. consumers believed that delivery time expectations should vary by the type of purchase. This means over 80 percent of consumers expected something as large as a couch to be shipped just as quickly as something as small as a phone charger. In 2018, nearly 30 percent of U.S. consumers now agree that shipping times could reasonably vary based on what product is being shipped, showing that consumers are becoming more flexible.
While this may indicate a shift in consumer expectations more aligned with supply chain complexities and their actual experiences associated with product types, e-commerce retailers shouldn’t slack on delivery speed. One way to do this is to bring inventory closer to the customer by determining where consumers are geographically to shorten the “click to door” transit time as well as keep final mile shipping costs low. This requires technology to determine where and how much inventory is needed as well as multiple facilities that can scale up and down rapidly to align with demand. For example, Radial has 21 fulfillment centers across North America to meet market demand locally across the country.
Free or Reasonably Priced Shipping is More Important Than Ever
Consumers may have eased up on delivery speed expectations, but price is more important than ever. Free shipping is becoming more expected. Overall, 35.1 percent of Americans expect their goods to arrive in two days or less, but they also note that that the price of this convenience is something many aren't willing to pay for. Going a step further, only 24.3 percent of Americans would be willing to pay up to $10 for delivery, while 64 percent expect free delivery for all their online purchases.
Though consumers may want their goods as fast as possible, they generally aren’t willing to take on the expense. That said, consumers love options and there isn’t necessarily a hard-and-fast rule. Figuring out how to achieve both will make your brand even more desirable.
Take the Commitment Out of Purchases
To that point, today’s consumers value the option to change their minds. Taking the commitment out of purchases with an easy returns process is critical for earning the trust of potential customers.
Fifty percent of Americans and 49.3 percent of Canadians would refrain from purchasing goods from an online retailer that doesn't offer free returns. This means brands that don’t offer this service can lose half of their prospective customers before the real shopping experience starts. By making the returns process frictionless for online shoppers and including all returns costs upfront, e-commerce brands can provide a smoother and preferable experience for shoppers that might be apprehensive about making a purchase.
As e-commerce grows, consumer attitudes and purchasing patterns will grow in tandem. Based on Radial’s survey findings, consumers are cost-conscious and focused on buying from online retailers that offer options centered on speed, cost and returns. E-commerce brands have an opportunity to showcase their ability to meet these expectations. Retailers that recognize this and are willing to meet consumers on their turf will position themselves for success in 2019 and beyond.
Tim Hinckley is the chief commercial officer at Radial, a provider of omnichannel retail technology solutions.
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