This holiday season it’s a buyer’s market and online retailers are pulling out the stops to woo customers, most notably with free shipping. Free shipping is a perennial holiday perk, yes, but this year some retailers have waived a minimum order to get free delivery.
“In the eyes of shoppers, online purchases delivered at no cost is shifting from a nicety to an expectation, and retailers are getting the message,” a recent Forbes article noted. As a result, “free shipping will prove to be a mandate this season, as 72 percent of all orders will ship for free,” according to consumer insights and predictions for the 2018 holiday shopping season from Salesforce.
Consumers also look for free and easy returns. Expect more online retailers to accommodate. After all, they’re looking forward to a robust holiday shopping season this year, given the healthy economy and strong consumer confidence. Holiday sales are expected to increase between 4.3 percent and 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of about $717 billion to $721 billion, according to figures from the National Retail Federation. The average annual increase in holiday sales has been 3.9 percent over the past five years.
For delivery companies, a glitch-free holiday season is the goal. Weather disruptions and capacity issues can pose problems every year, but consumers aren’t sympathetic. They want delivery to meet their expectations of fast and free.
Consumers should enjoy the perks while they last. Come January, postage and shipping rates will go up and online retailers will undoubtedly find a way to pass those costs on to customers. The U.S. Postal Service’s new rates will take effect January 27, 2019, and those of competitors will increase in early January.
Will you shop online this holiday season? How important is free shipping to you? Free returns?