The holiday season ranging from Halloween to New Years is known as online shopping’s biggest time of year for retailers and consumers alike. Exclusive deals and flash sales are a common occurrence throughout the season, but there’s one element that’s come to be an expectation: free shipping.
Free shipping has become so crucial for online shoppers that there’s an entire day devoted to it, conveniently named, Free Shipping Day. Free Shipping Day 2018 falls on Friday, December 14, and it will undoubtedly deliver an influx of digital retail spending. According to a 2017 survey, 72% of shoppers planned to take advantage of free holiday shipping. That percentage is expected to rise with even hotter deals available in the 2018 season. Typically, retailers participating in Free Shipping Day promise their free shipping will deliver shoppers’ merchandise in time for Christmas. Of course, this is the goal; however, 88% of survey participants noted they prioritize free shipping over fast shipping. When asked what they consider to be “fast shipping”, the respondents said they expect delivery within two to four days. For retailers, this means while consumers may prioritize free shipping over fast shipping, they still expect their products to be delivered in a timely manner. This tells retailers that they need to meet the “two to four days” expectation at risk of losing business to the competition while also maintaining the fact that, more than anything, shoppers want their goods in time for Christmas.
Free shipping without a minimum is another crucial piece for retailers to maintain a competitive edge. Amazon recently announced they will be dropping their $25 minimum free shipping requirement for the duration of the holiday season for all shoppers - setting an entirely new standard for holiday shipping. Furthermore, their 10 million plus Prime members are eligible for same-day delivery on over three million items, seven days a week. Retailers like Target are doing their best to measure up by offering options such as free two-day shipping with no minimum through December 22, but their selection isn’t nearly as vast in comparison.
The importance of free shipping during the holiday season is undebatable. What was once optional for retailers is now a standard expectation. Free shipping minimums and exclusive deals don’t seem to be enough anymore, as retailers such as industry giants, Amazon and Target, offer free, fast shipping on all orders. The bar continues to rise as consumers’ standards consistently grow higher, and retailers will have to continue to push the boundaries in order to compete.