Free Shipping Bolsters Loyalty Most Among Online Shoppers

woman shopping online

Foot traffic is a key metric of customer attraction for brick-and-mortar stores, and online visits are the corresponding metric for online shops. If the product assortment and the shopping experience itself are key factors when shopping in a physical store, recent market research by PYMNTS Intelligence reveals that the most influential factor when choosing an online shop is free shipping. This is especially important among older generations. Marketplaces rather than retail or branded stores tend to do better when it comes to offering free shipping.

chart, shopping features

These are some of the findings detailed in “The Features Deciding the Battle Between Brands, Retailers and Marketplaces,” a PYMNTS Intelligence research study in collaboration with Adobe that explores the actions, choices and behaviors of consumers when shopping online. To do so, the research conducted a survey to over 3,500 U.S. consumers to understand their attitudes when shopping in online marketplaces, merchants’ websites, multi-brand stores or social platforms.

Overall, the research has found that enhancing the shopping features that consumers value is vital for merchants aiming to become their preferred choice and foster loyalty. According to the research, nearly two-thirds of consumers surveyed find free shipping to be an important feature when choosing an online shop for the first time, and 3 out of 4 would keep buying from a store if offered free shipping. Older consumers, especially baby boomers and seniors, as well as Gen X individuals, tend to give even higher importance to this feature than younger shoppers, and express interest in purchasing again from the same store when free shipping is available.

graphic, strategic shopping features

Beyond free shipping, consumers also value easy checkout processes when choosing an online shop. This factor is crucial for at least half of online shoppers, making these the two features cited most as important by consumers.

The research also revealed that online marketplaces perform far better than other websites across all reviewed features, including free shipping and easy checkout, but also the ability to track deliveries or easy return procedures, as shown on the accompanying chart.

Notably, consumers who prefer mostly brands’ websites or mobile apps exhibit lower levels of loyalty to these stores for each of these capabilities. Considering brands and retailers’ difficulty in competing with online marketplace in most of reviewed features, offering free shipping and easy checkouts constitutes an opportunity for them to attract new customers and gain competitiveness, a race that for now marketplaces are winning.