According to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, nearly eight in 10 (78.8 percent) retailers surveyed will set their standard shipping deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery to expire at least a week before the big day, compared to 73.7 percent who said so last holiday season.
Additionally, approximately one in five (21.2 percent) will set those deadlines to expire December 19 or later, compared to more than one-quarter who said so last year (26.3 percent).
“It’s important to remember that the 2013 holiday season was impacted by a multitude of factors that affected the supply chain in the days leading up to Christmas, including bad weather and a shortened holiday calendar. That said, retailers and their delivery partners this year are proactively planning to make sure they meet customer expectations for delivery and customer service,” said Shop.org executive director and NRF senior vice president Vicki Cantrell. “In addition to ramping up their online promotions earlier to entice customers to start shopping earlier in the season, many companies this year also have invested in functionalities such as live chat, checking in-store product availability and buy online – pick up in store.”
Of the 92.3 percent of retailers polled who plan to offer free standard shipping of some sort this holiday season, nearly seven in 10 (69.1 percent) say their guarantee for Christmas delivery will expire on or before Friday, Dec. 19. Nearly three-quarters (74.2 percent) of retailers polled last year had a deadline on the equivalent day (Friday, Dec. 20, 2013).
In a separate survey released in August 2014, Shop.org asked retailers which site and service features they have invested most heavily in before the holiday season, and many agreed shipping and fulfillment features were of utmost importance. According to the survey, four in 10 (41.3 percent) have invested significantly in live chat, and more than one-third (34.5 percent) noted they have invested in technologies that allow shoppers to check in-store availability. Other areas of investment include shipping deadline calendars (30.9 percent), “ship from store” functionalities (27.3 percent) and buy online – pick up in store services (25.5 percent).
For those waiting until the last minute, one in five (20.6 percent) companies surveyed that plan to offer a free or upgraded expedited shipping promotion will give customers until Tuesday, Dec. 23, to take advantage of the offer. By contrast, 14.7 percent of retailers polled will let their customers take advantage of that offer only through Monday, Dec. 22, and another 14.7 percent will end their free expedited shipping promotions on Sunday, Dec. 21.
More than half (56.6 percent) of retailers surveyed who plan to offer express two-day shipping say their deadline for guaranteed Christmas delivery will expire on or before Sunday, Dec. 21, while the balance will end guaranteed two-day shipping on Monday, Dec. 22.
“Consumers now have more tools at their disposal when it comes to connecting with retailers, and as online shopping continues to grow, more shoppers this holiday season will look for specific online promotions as a way to find the perfect gift at the right price,” said Prosper’s principal analyst Pam Goodfellow. “Possibly having learned from their procrastination last holiday season and with another shortened holiday calendar ahead of us, shoppers could start looking for those shipping offers sooner rather than later this year.”
When it comes to one-day express shipping, 50 percent are comfortable offering express one-day or overnight shipping as late as Tuesday, Dec. 23, for a guaranteed Christmas delivery; three in 10 (30 percent) have set Monday, Dec. 22, as the deadline for their one-day express delivery deadline.
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