Consumers are becoming ever more demanding when it comes to getting their purchases delivered, with growing numbers demanding a service that is both free and fast.
According to a AlixPartners survey, the maximum delivery time the average shopper will accept has fallen to 4.5 days, down from 5.5 in 2012.
The finding underscores how strongly market leaders such as Amazon and Walmart influence shopper expectations, said the company.
AlixPartners said that to satisfy them, retailers are scrambling to expand their networks of warehouses and distribution centres with a focus on those near large population centres to facilitate rapid order fulfilment and delivery, relying on third-party carriers to handle the last leg of the delivery route.
In addition, the survey revealed that free shipping can make or break a retailer, with 96% of survey respondents saying that the availability of free shipping impacts their purchase decision, and 73% said that it has a great impact on their decision.
More than 70% of shoppers decide their shipping preference before checkout, and nearly 60% of shoppers browse for products based on their preferred shipping options.
About a quarter of shoppers (26%) will buy from a retailer that offers free shipping, even if they would pay a bit less to buy the same item from another retailer that imposes shipping charges.
AlixPartners said these findings strongly support the conclusion that delivery options, and specifically the availability of free shipping, drive online purchase behaviour.
But shoppers also expect their deliveries to be fast; figures show that the average consumer expects delivery within 4.5 days, and Amazon Prime members are even more demanding.
The 56% of survey respondents who have signed up for Amazon Prime expect their deliveries to arrive within 3.8 days— nearly a day less than non-Prime members will accept.
Demand for same-day delivery is increasing, but at 4.1% of online purchases (up from 2.7% in 2016), goods for same-day delivery still account for only a small share of total purchases.