Consumers Redefine ‘Fast’ Shipping

Call it the “Prime effect, but today’s consumers expect more perks from retailers – particularly when it comes to shipping, according to Deloitte’s 31st annual holiday survey of consumer spending intentions and trends. Additionally, Black Friday is struggling to make a comeback with consumers and December should pull in the majority of shopping activity. Among the findings from the 2016 study:

Shoppers expect more for less when it comes to retail policies, particularly around shipping

  • Just 42 percent of shoppers surveyed consider 3-4 day shipping “fast” – a significant drop from the 63 percent who said so last year. Instead, the majority (83 percent) of shoppers consider fast shipping to mean delivery within two days or less.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of shoppers think they should be allowed to order after Dec. 17 and still get free shipping by Dec. 24.
  • More than 7 in 10 surveyed shoppers (71 percent) plan to take advantage of free shipping opportunities this season.
  • Consumers still expect favorable return policies. For purchases made in physical stores, consumers mostly want refund options other than store credit (67 percent). For items purchased online, consumers mostly want free online returns (82 percent), followed by the option to return a product purchased online to a physical store (69 percent) and refund options other than store credit (61 percent).

Post-Thanksgiving remains peak shopping season; Black Friday lacks sparkle

  • With only 23 percent of surveyed shoppers claiming to do their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, most plan to shop post-Thanksgiving with 34 percent shopping between Thanksgiving and the end of November. Forty-three  percent plan to shop in December and January.
  • Black Friday enthusiasm remains tepid: More than half (52 percent) claim to not rely on Black Friday deals as much as they used to and 42 percent claim the same as it pertains to Cyber Monday, both on par with 2015 numbers.

Familiar retailers reign; shoppers seek physical stores for specific advantages

  • Almost three quarters of consumers surveyed (73 percent) responded that they will try “new or different” retailers this year. Of those, two-thirds (66 percent) plan to try a local store or business and more than half (52 percent) will try a new website.
  • While shoppers are largely experimenting with new retailers, they’re still putting most of their budget (76 percent) with those they have shopped before.
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents expressed physical stores’ main benefit is the ability to see and touch the product.
  • For those who choose to shop local, top motivators are supporting the local economy (60 percent) and finding one-of-a-kind gifts (56 percent).

Shoppers are less loyal when shopping online; few make impulse buys in-store and online

  • Study results show that about half of consumers who shop at a physical store are more likely to remain loyal (58 percent) to the merchant even when products are out of stock. However, when shopping on a retailer website, 77 percent of consumers replied they are more likely to look elsewhere for a product when they can’t find what they want.
  • A vast majority of consumers (86 percent) are also using the web to conduct online research before visiting physical stores, with customer reviews on retailer websites (66 percent), recommendations from peers (56 percent) and customer reviews on independent websites (55 percent) being the most important types of reviews according to those who research.
  • Whether shopping in store or online, consumers responding say they plan their purchases in advance, and fewer holiday purchases are spontaneous. Less than 20 percent of both online and in-store purchases are completely unplanned, limiting the opportunity for merchants to inspire at point of sale.

Data privacy is still a concern but should not impact purchases

  • While 3 in 4 shoppers (73 percent) surveyed are concerned when a retailer has one or more data breaches, very few (7 percent) are deterred from shopping that retailer again.
  • In fact, almost half (47 percent) say they would shop again if the retailer took action to regain consumers’ trust and 33 percent would continue shopping with the retailer but change their methods of payment.

“With major online retailers finding new ways to appeal to customers’ needs, they are raising the bar on consumer expectations. Just within the past year, we’ve found a dramatic change in customers’ perception on shipping,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution practice leader. “We’re seeing this trend transcend from shipping into other retail policies like returns, price matching and product availability. This could prove a challenge for retailers as they streamline purchasing, delivery and return cycles to appeal to a well-informed, efficiency-demanding group of consumers.”

Sides added, “Retailers may also feel the effects of industry fragmentation and volatility that we have seen accelerating the last few years. The onset of new digital retail entrants is generating a lot of experimentation. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they plan to try new stores or websites this holiday season. While people are just dipping a toe in the water with actual purchases, if those retailers offer positive, unique experiences, they may be rewarded with a larger share of customers’ wallets in the future.”

For more information about Deloitte’s “2016 Annual Holiday Survey,” please read the full survey report or follow us @DeloitteCB. An infographic and complete survey results are also available for download.

About the Survey
This survey was commissioned by Deloitte and conducted online by an independent research company between Sept. 6 and 20, 2016. The survey polled a sample of 5,038 consumers in the U.S. and has a margin of error for the entire sample of plus or minus one to two percentage points.

About Deloitte’s Retail, Wholesale and Distribution Practice
Deloitte is a leading presence in the retail and distribution industry, providing audit, consulting, risk management, financial advisory and tax services to more than 75 percent of the Fortune 500 retailers. With more than 2,400 professionals, Deloitte’s retail and distribution practice provides insights, services and approaches designed to assist retailers across all major subsectors including apparel, grocery, food and drug, wholesale and distribution and online. For more information about Deloitte’s retail and distribution sector, please visit or follow @DeloitteCB on Twitter.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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