It’s not enough for shipping to be free. It must be fast.

54% of shoppers have ditched an online order due to long estimated delivery times.  Anyone surprised?

It’s not enough for shipping to be free. Online retailers better make it fast, too.

That’s one finding of the UPS/comScore report that hit the wire a few weeks back.  While at least a few online shoppers are in a rush to get their goods, 83% are willing to wait an additional two days for delivery if shipping is free).  Unsurprisingly, 58% have added items to their shopping carts to qualify for free shipping.

What do we make about all these expectations around free and fast shipping?

Thinking back to how we ratchet our expectations higher and higher as we get faster Internet connections, thereby becoming less and less tolerant of poor web experiences (e.g. we abandon a video that is taking too long to load), this shift in shipping expectations makes complete sense.

As consumers have come to expect their online orders to be both free and fast (read: Amazon’s Prime free 2-day shipping driving the behavioral change at the margin—or Zappos absurdly fast turnaround even when it’s not overtly expected), they are less willing to accept orders that will have slow delivery times.

While this conclusion likely doesn’t apply to every order online, it’s certainly happened to me.   Case in point, I was shopping a wagon online on both Amazon and Home Depot.  This guy:


gorillacartamznThe Home Depot:



Same item.  Same price. Free shipping in both cases.

Where do you think I bought it?  Amazon.

Home Depot just got "noped" by Amazon.
Home Depot just got “noped” by Amazon.

Why did Amazon win a sale of an oversized home improvement product? Two-day shipping from Amazon versus a week-plus estimated delivery from Home Depot.  This was, ultimately, an easy decision (particularly since I needed this item by the weekend).

So how’s a traditional retailer going to compete?  Well, the other thing you’ll notice is that The Home Depot was stocking this item online-only.  In other words, to The Home Depot, they are going to have to ship this item no matter where it goes.

Where they could have won this sale was by providing free expedited shipping.

If I was able to get this item just as fast from Home Depot as Amazon without Prime membership, well, that’d be a win for me as a consumer.  After all, I’ve got a Home Depot nearby in case something goes wrong or I have issues or need to return it.  That’s an area that a local retailer can win over Amazon.

Regardless, this situation exemplifies how consumers are going to make the decision that serves them best.  And store loyalties aside, it’s not enough for a traditional retailer to match on price and free shipping when you’re fighting for a sale against a retailer offering a little lagniappe.