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Roughly three-quarters of US consumers say that the choice of free shipping greatly impacts their purchasing decisions when shopping online, according to an Alix Partners report [pdf]. The survey, conducted in late 2017, shows that the impact of free shipping has risen in recent years, while maximum delivery time expectations have contracted.

This year’s report shows that as of late 2017, the maximum delivery time that shoppers will accept in order to receive free shipping is on average is 4.5 days. That’s down a full day from 5.5 in a similar 2012 survey.

Amazon Prime members are particularly demanding: on average, they expect their free deliveries to arrive within a maximum of 3.8 days. (Their expectations may be more stringent given that they’ve in essence paid for the shipping through their membership and have been conditioned for free 2-day shipping in many purchases.)

Amazon Prime members’ opinions count, because the program’s penetration continues to expand. Some 56% of respondents said that someone in their household is an Amazon Prime member, double the share from 2012. (For comparison’s sake, data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners suggests that 63% of Amazon customer were Prime members as of September 2017, around the same time as the Alix Partners research was conducted.)

Amazon Prime members’ expectations can have knock-on effects for other retailers, who are expected to compete on their delivery terms. Almost 6 in 10 respondents say they browse for products based on their preferred shipping options.

Moreover, about 1 in 4 shoppers will buy from a retailer that offers free shipping even if it means making a purchase at a slightly higher price.

Amazon is the Most Trusted Source of Information

Retailers don’t only have to battle Amazon’s expanding Prime membership, but also its position as a trusted source of information. In a separate survey [download page] of online shoppers, Salsify found that 51% trusted Amazon to give them the most useful product information or recommendation. That was about twice the share (27%) who trust Google the most, and more than 3 times the share who trust a brand the most.

The most common shopping patterns also end in a purchase on Amazon, according to the shoppers surveyed. Some 41% said that the shopping pattern that best matches their behavior is to start their search on Amazon and then buy on Amazon. The next-most common pattern? Starting the search on Google and ending up buying on Amazon (28%).

Interestingly, while the most typical shopping pattern ended on Amazon for about 7 in 10 respondents, shoppers were as likely to say their most common online shopping journey started on Google (44%) as on Amazon (44%).

That’s notable in light of conflicting research about which shoppers favor more for product research: search engines, or Amazon. As it stands in this latest survey, maybe both equally…

About the Data: The Alix Partners data is based on a survey of 1,015 US consumers surveyed in November 2017. The Salsify data is based on a survey of more than 1,000 US consumers who shopped online at least once in 2017.

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