Consumers Are Changing E-Commerce Preferences

Sept. 13, 2018
Two years ago, customers wanted quality packaging and fast delivery, but now a "brand’s opportunity to reach, retain and extend customers’ lifetime value lies in giving them what they want, how and when they want it.”

Consumers prioritize convenience, experience and quality when making online purchases, according to the annual eCommerce study conducted by 3PL provider Dotcom Distribution.

“With e-commerce now such an integral part of life, we sought to discover what factors impact where customers decide to spend money,” says Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution. “Two years ago, it was quality packaging and fast delivery. Today, while those factors are valued, a brand’s opportunity to reach, retain and extend customers’ lifetime value lies in giving them what they want, how and when they want it.”

For the third consecutive year, items purchased most online were clothing/apparel (77%), consumer electronics/technology (52%) and beauty products (41%). What consumers are purchasing online isn’t fluctuating; however, while clothing/apparel also topped the list of items respondents prefer to purchase in-store (58%), consumer electronics and beauty products dropped to eighth and sixth, respectively. 

Key findings:

Free Outranks Fast – 90% highly value free returns when making online purchases; 91% say free shipping influences future purchases. Giveaways also positively influence consumers’ future purchases. These factors outranked faster delivery times. Other findings:

●   62% would buy again from a brand offering free returns/exchanges

●   67% are likely to add items to cart to receive free shipping

Shipping Expectations Rise, But Not on Customers’ Dime – With 44% doing most of their online shopping on Amazon, same-day shipping’s popularity is unsurprising. But while trial rose 19% since 2017 (42% vs. 23%), consumers are more interested in free shipping and on-time delivery. Only 25% of 2018 respondents would pay extra for faster shipping—in sharp contrast to the 47% who’d have paid up to $9 more for faster delivery in 2016.

●   93% are greatly or somewhat impacted by shipping cost

●   77% said delayed order arrival would influence future purchase decisions with an e-tailer

What’s Inside Counts...If It’s of Value – In 2015 and 2016, unboxing was a key component in the e-commerce experience. Today, fancy ribbons and scented boxes take a back seat to value-added freebies; giveaways ranked third on the list of what would motivate respondents to recommend a brand; 23% are more likely than not (43%) to buy again from brands that included a free giveaway in their order.

 ●  Top amenities influencing shoppers to recommend a brand: Product quality (75%); Company incentive (37%); Surprise giveaway (23%)

Omni-channel is Omnipresent – Consumers buy more online now than ever, but a physical presence is still vital in the retail business model, and shoppers are drawing a stronger connection between the two. Thirty-two percent (32%) prefer buying online vs. in-store, yet 74% are more likely to make a purchase if they can return/exchange in-store. When asked how brands can to encourage future purchases, 31% said “buy online, return in store”—ranking fourth of 10 choices.

 ●  +12% prefer to return in-store (41%) vs. mail (29%)

 Age Dictates Expectations and Preferences – 2018 data suggests e-commerce expectations depend on age. Younger buyers prioritize convenience (flexibility of returning in-store; faster delivery). Older consumers want value (low-cost or free shipping; free returns).

●   Gen Z: 36% named same-day delivery a top influence in future purchase decisions—highest of all groups; 87% are more likely to make online purchases if they can return in-store; 75% are more likely to purchase from retailer again if online order came with free giveaway

●   Millennials: 76% would add items to online carts to qualify for free shipping; 36% prefer buying online—both highest of all groups; 79% are less likely to buy from e-tailer again if delivery is delayed; 60% are more likely to purchase from e-tailer again if online order came with free giveaway

●   Baby Boomers: <1% expect one-day delivery—lowest of all groups; 95% of purchase decisions are “somewhat” or “greatly” influenced by shipping costs—highest of all groups

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