E-commerce Study Reveals Key Inflation-Fueled Factors Impacting Online Purchasing Decisions

Data in a study by Ryder System, Inc. reveals where online shoppers will and will not compromise amid economic uncertainty.

Ryder System, Inc, a leader in supply chain, dedicated transportation, and fleet management solutions, has released its ninth annual e-commerce consumer study – a steadfast benchmark of U.S. online shopping behaviors, preferences, and expectations. The 2023 study “Adapting to Inflation: Consumer Outlook on E-commerce,” which Ryder assumed after acquiring Dotcom Distribution, reveals key factors impacting purchasing decisions as consumers shop less amid inflation.

“When this annual study was first initiated in 2015, the goal was to gather and monitor consumer insights surrounding the e-commerce experience and publish those findings to serve as an industry benchmark,” says Jeff Wolpov, senior vice president of e-commerce solutions for Ryder. “This year’s data shows consumers are more cost conscious, consistently prioritizing savings with free shipping, free returns, and comparison shopping. For savvy merchants, this presents an opportunity to provide customers with options to save in one area while creating opportunities to shift spending to another, such as increasing order value with free shipping thresholds or converting returns into new orders with smart returns management.”

The study of 1,077 U.S. online shoppers explores sentiment and behavior surrounding purchasing decisions, omnichannel fulfillment, packaging, shipping, returns, and sustainability, while also taking a deeper look at beauty and apparel shoppers. The 2023 findings identify patterns and trends that brands and retailers can address to shape the ideal customer experience as inflation persists.

What’s Trending

Non-essential online shopping is on a decline. Just more than half of the study participants (51%) reported making fewer purchases, and 49% reported doing more comparison shopping, specifically due to recent inflation.

Desire for faster shipping resumes. In early 2022, amid lingering supply chain disruptions, 64% of consumers had adapted to receiving shipments within three to four days, signifying greater tolerance for longer shipping times than in 2021 (50%) and 2020 (53%). However, 2023 data thus far shows the number of consumers expecting shipments to arrive in one to two days is steadily rising (+10% from 2021 to 2023).

What’s Driving Purchases

Consumers remain cost-conscious, consistently prioritizing savings. This is observed most prominently with free shipping. Seventy-one percent of respondents added more items to their online shopping carts to qualify for free shipping, and 64% agree free shipping plays the biggest role in deciding where they make online purchases.

What’s Yielding Retention

Returns management and promotional offers hold customer retention potential. Sixty-five percent of respondents confirmed “returnless refunds” (a policy allowing full refunds without requiring customers to return unwanted items) motivate them to shop with a brand again (+14% YOY). Additionally, 44% reported coupons, discounts, or credit toward a future purchase as the factor most likely to pique their desire to shop with the same brand again in the future (+9% YOY).

What’s Earning Brand Affinity

Data reveals evident opportunity in appealing to consumers’ ever-growing social and environmental consciousness. Seventy-one percent of 2023 respondents would wait longer for an online order to arrive in the interest of reducing environmental impact; 36% say whether a company treats its workers fairly is the biggest factor in deciding who they purchase from; and 45% report a desire to donate unwanted items retained through returnless refunds.

What’s Pushing Consumers Away

Shipping costs lead to customer attrition. Eighty percent of consumers in 2023 reported they will not move forward with an online order if shipping fees cost more than their purchase. Likewise, on the topic of consumer tolerance, or lack thereof, 81% (+2% YOY) of consumers reported abandoning carts upon seeing unanticipated shipping costs – also a potential byproduct of inflation.

“While consumer behaviors, preferences, and expectations will continue to shift, one thing remains constant – the consumer experience is king. That means, for brands to remain relevant, they must stay current on the patterns and trends that will help them shape the ideal customer experience,” adds Wolpov.

For more information about Ryder e-commerce and omni-channel fulfillment solutions, visit www.ryder.com and the full study, “Adapting to Inflation: Consumer Outlook on E-Commerce,” can be downloaded here.

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