Amazon Prime has set new expectations for speed and convenience.

By Rieva Lesonsky

Providing a great customer experience is not enough these days. You also have to meet or exceed consumer expectations. One of those expectations is free shipping, according to the latest issue of the quarterly Consumer View report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

“Consumers want free delivery, and they’re willing to meet retailers halfway to get it,” says Mark Mathews, NRF Vice President for Research Development and Industry Analysis. “If [the retailer] can get their purchase to the store, they’ll come pick it up if that’s what it takes to avoid a delivery charge. And once they’re in the store, they are very open to seeing what else the retailer has to offer. This is part of the growing evidence that consumers see retail as retail, regardless of how they make [and get] their purchases.”

While the report says consumers are “embracing new fulfillment options—as long as they’re free,” it notes that 75% of consumers surveyed do expect delivery to be free—even on orders under $50, up from 68% a year ago.

Nor is this demand being led by young, budget-conscious consumers. In fact, 88% of baby boomers “demand free shipping.” Comparatively, 77% of Generation X, 76% of Gen Z and 61% of millennials won’t make a purchase without a free shipping offer.

As a boomer, I can attest to that. If I get a catalog or email from a marketer without a free shipping option, I toss or delete without even browsing the merchandise. The report notes that “many consumers now consider shipping costs even before getting to the checkout page,” with 65% saying they look up free-shipping thresholds before adding items to their shopping carts.

Offering free shipping is not enough, either: It also needs to be fast. Some 39% of consumers expect free two-day shipping, and 29% have backed out of a purchase because two-day shipping wasn’t free.


Free ship stock photo by AzriSuratmin/Shutterstock