The word “ unprecedented “ was used to describe the 2020 holiday season so often that it became a cliché.  With the precedent set and this year’s holiday season around the corner, we conducted our 5th annual holiday survey to uncover key shipping and delivery trends that retailers can use to improve the overall customer experience this holiday.

The study of more than 1,300 U.S. consumers reveals that despite their concerns, the majority of consumers (57%) will start shopping at the same time or later than last year, creating a catch-22 for retailers during the most critical time of year. Other key takeaways and tips for retailers follow. 

Holiday warnings have yet to change consumer behavior

Shoppers, many of whom were burned last holiday with late deliveries, are aware of looming supply chain and delivery issues this season. But expectations remain high, and retailers are expected to accommodate a wide range of shopper preferences.

  • Consumer’s top concerns this holiday are out-of-stock items (50%); shipping delays (46%); high prices of goods (46%); and higher shipping costs this year than last (41%).
  • However, nearly 6 out of 10 (57%) plan to start holiday shopping at the same time or later than last year — only slightly lower than 2020 (61%). 
  • More troubling for retailers, just 37% of consumers who will start shopping at the same time or later are willing to give retailers more than one or two extra days to deliver items.

Today’s consumers are more aware of the supply chain than ever before and their concern about out of stock items is in step with retail analysts. Salesforce expects retailers to cut their number of SKUs by 5% to make the most of the inventory they are able to get. After all, it’s better to advertise fewer products than harm customer loyalty by telling someone the item they ordered isn’t actually available.

Retailer Tip: Start holiday promotions as early as possible and preemptively focus on a smaller assortment with guaranteed availability. 

Amazon Prime impact on overall holiday shopping

Retailers should assume that their customers shop at Amazon too — and that those shoppers bring expectations set by the online retailer’s speed and efficiency. 

  • Eight out of  10 (79%) say their household has an Amazon Prime membership, and Prime membership rises to an astounding 89% for more affluent consumers.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 shoppers (87%) are likely to buy from Amazon this holiday season.
  • Transparency is key. The majority of shoppers (56%) are more likely to complete a purchase if the Estimated Delivery Date (EDD) is visible in the shopping cart.

Retailer Tip: Set delivery expectations early in the purchase process – as early as Google search results and definitely by the time your customers put an item in the cart – and then the real work starts: keep your delivery promises to keep customers coming back. 

Shipping should be free, fast — and on-time delivery expectations must be met

Even amidst warnings of shipping disruption and higher costs, most Americans state that free shipping (88%) and on-time delivery (88%) are important to the overall holiday shopping experience. 

  • According to shoppers, the three most important delivery services are: free 2-day shipping (71%); free shipping on returns (63%); and the ability to track packages en route (62%). 
  • Almost all consumers (98%) want retailers to notify them if their delivery will be late. Most (76%) prefer direct notification via email or text message. 
  • Nearly seven in 10 (67%) say they won’t shop with a brand again after a poor delivery experience.

Retailer Tip: Make customers aware of delivery issues as they occur. Delivery delays are inevitable — it’s how your brand responds when they happen that really counts. In fact, delivery exceptions can actually be excellent opportunities to turn a negative experience into a positive one, making repeat purchases from the 70% of consumers who won’t shop with a brand again following a poor delivery experience a possibility. 

Same-day delivery options poised for growth

The ability to order online and receive the item that day is important to shoppers, but particularly younger ones.

  • 42% say that ordering online for same-day store pickup is important. This number rises to 54% of younger shoppers (defined as age 18-29).
  • 36% of respondents say that ordering online for same-day home delivery is important. This number rises to 48% of younger shoppers.

Retailer Tip: With shipping carriers potentially maxing out, retailers can leverage same-day shipping apps to meet growing consumer demand for same-day delivery, such as Roadie, Shipt, Instacart, and DoorDash. Doing so is especially important if you sell to younger consumers. 

Join us on October 28 as we share more findings from this survey on how consumer expectations have changed this season and how retailers can respond to ensure shoppers come back in 2022.  Save your seat!