Nearly Half of US Consumers Cite Free Shipping as Key Feature When Choosing a Merchant

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As inflationary pressures continue to impact household budgets, U.S. consumers are taking measures to trim their expenses and prioritize cost-saving shopping features when choosing a merchant.

In the “2023 Global Digital Shopping Index: U.S. Edition playbook, PYMNTS Intelligence draws insights from a survey of more than 13,300 consumers and 3,100 merchants across six key countries — Brazil, India, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States — to examine what U.S. merchants get right about what local shoppers want and what they can do to improve their customer experiences and drive conversion.

Findings captured in the joint PYMNTS-Cybersource study show that rewards programs have gained significant traction among U.S. consumers, with more than 40% of shoppers citing this feature as very or extremely important when selecting merchants last year. 

With rising prices, free shipping has also become a key cost-saving feature for U.S. shoppers. In 2022, 41% of consumers identified free shipping as a very or extremely important factor when choosing merchants, and nearly 6% of respondents considered it to be the most important feature. As a result, retailers offering this incentive as an added value have a competitive advantage, as it entices customers to choose their products over others. 

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In addition to rewards programs and free shipping, other benefits such as coupons and guaranteed refunds for fraudulent charges were among the highly sought-after features in 2022, per the report. 

Another significant finding from the study is the growth of the pickup economy in the United States. Nearly one-third of U.S. eCommerce shoppers opted for in-store or curbside pickup for their most recent purchases, representing a 37% increase from the previous year. Curbside pickup, in particular, has become the most common way for eCommerce shoppers to retrieve their purchases.

But while many U.S. merchants are aware of their customers’ demands for cost-saving and digital shopping features, the study reveals an awareness gap. For example, approximately 5% of customers are unaware that free shipping is offered by merchants who provide it, which very likely impacts merchants’ bottom lines.

To improve customer experiences and drive conversion, the study emphasizes the importance of actively communicating and making these features more visible to customers to ensure that they know where to find and how to use them.