Free vs. Fast: Which Do Consumers Prefer?

In a world seemingly run by ever-expanding same-day delivery services, it may be surprising to learn that when it comes to shipping, what customers truly care about is cost.

While speed is certainly appreciated, online shoppers often choose the cheapest method of getting their order. In fact, according to an infographic created by eFulfillment Service, this is true 67% of the time. They also found that a shocking 23% of customers are even willing to wait eight or more days if the shipping is free, and 78% of shoppers consider free shipping to be the most important option at checkout.

However, while free-over-fast is certainly preferred today, that may not always be the case. With Amazon leading the way with same-day shipping for Prime customers in certain markets, countless other companies are following suit. Many of these organizations, Amazon included, feature this service for free — which clearly satiates consumers’ desires on both the cost and speed fronts.

Obviously, not all organizations are equipped to straddle this line. Short of behemoth organizations with massive distribution channels, same-day shipping is going to be out of the question for most retailers. This doesn’t mean you can’t make your shipping fulfillment strategies stand out, though!

The most valuable thing you can do is entice your new and existing customers with shipping discounts. If this isn’t something you do regularly because of the impact on your profit margin, consider ways to offset the discount so you’re not stuck with the expenses. If across-the-board free shipping doesn’t work for you, set a threshold to qualify for free shipping; only offer free shipping on certain product types at certain times; or increase your product price. And be sure to give those speed-loving shoppers options for faster shipping — just charge for it accordingly.

Whatever you do, highlight your shipping promotions in your catalog, emails, and social media pages. Only time will tell if the “savings over speed” trend will stick, or if shoppers will adjust their expectations to prefer instant gratification. But in the mean time, you have the power to appease everyone who shops and ships through your site!

About the Author: Jim Gibbs

Vice President of Sales & Marketing at The Dingley Press. Jim has been with Dingley since 2002 and lives in Maine near our Lisbon, Maine plant location.