May 3, 2012, 10:45 AM

Free shipping is worth waiting for

Online shoppers are more concerned about free shipping than sales tax, study says.

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Shoppers want free shipping—even if it means their packages take a while to get to them, according to a recent study by research and consulting firm AlixPartners LLP.

75% of the consumers in the study said they were willing to wait at least five days for an e-commerce order to arrive if the shipping were free—including 50% who said they’d wait a full week. Another 12% of consumers said they’d wait only four days for an order shipped for free; 9% would wait up to three days, 4% up to two days.

When asked the main reasons they don’t make online purchases, 36% of consumers cited the shipping costs. That made shipping costs the second-most common reason they balk at buying online, only slightly behind the 37% who prefer to see and touch an item in person before purchasing.

The AlixPartners Home-Delivery Shopping Survey, which polled 1,000 adults nationwide between March 22 and 25, found that free shipping has a bigger effect on consumers’ online shopping behaviors than the inclusion of sales tax on online purchases. 59% said sales tax would reduce their likelihood to buy online. That breaks down into 21% of respondents saying having to pay sales tax would “greatly reduce” their online purchases if online or through call centers, and 38% saying it would “somewhat reduce” their purchases.  41% of all respondents said it would have no effect on their online buying.

Following are other reasons besides shipping costs and sales tax why consumers prefer not to shop online, including the percentage of consumers citing each among their top three reasons not to buy online:

• Difficulty of returning an item, 20%;

• Potential for purchases to be lost or damaged in transit, 17%;

• Concerns about getting the right item delivered, 13%;

• Difficulty getting an item into the house once delivered, 10%

• Delivery times are too long, 10%;

• Can’t track item while in transit, 3%;

• Need but can’t get guarantee weekend delivery, 3%.

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