Free is Better Than Fast for Ecommerce Consumers

Free Shipping is Better Than Fast for Ecommerce Consumers

When it comes to consumers who shop online, the ability to return the items they buy for free is hugely important.

Free Shipping Is Better Than Fast

According to the 2018 annual eCommerce survey by Dotcom Distribution, more than 90% of the respondents placed a high value on free returns when they make an online purchase. A slightly higher number (91%) also said their future purchase is influenced by free shipping.

With 9 out of 10 respondents stating free return is an important factor in their purchasing decision, small businesses have to seriously consider the implementation of this option. Even if your business offers faster delivery with competitive prices, it may not be enough.

This is due to a higher rate of purchases being returned. The 2017 holiday season saw 28% of the gifts people purchased returned, at a value of $90 billion.

As the survey points, consumer expectations for online shopping is evolving and business must adapt to this new behavior.

This behavior is being driven by what the report calls the “Amazon Effect.” This is based on same-day free shipping as well as free returns the online retailer makes available to its customers.

In the press release, Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution, explained the changes taking place and what brands must do to keep their customers.

Haggerty says, “Two years ago, the answer was quality packaging and fast delivery. In 2018, while those factors are still valued, the opportunity for brands to reach, retain and extend customers’ lifetime value lies in giving them what they want, how and when they want it.”

The survey was carried out during the month of May 2018 with the participation of 1,420 online shoppers. They were questioned about their habits, preferences, and expectations in the areas of online shopping, packaging, shipping, returns, and transparency.

The respondents were made up of 41.55% male and 57.11% female ages 18 and over.

More Survey Results

Fifty-six percent of the consumers said free returns are very important, while 35% said they are important. And close to two thirds or 62% said they would buy again from a company that offered free returns and exchanges.

While on the subject of shipping, 67% said they would add more items to their shopping cart to get free shipping. But if the item they ordered is delayed, 77% said it would affect their future purchasing decision from the brand.

When it comes to returning items, 74% are more likely to purchase online if a company offers in-store return or exchange. For 31% of these customers, this option would result in making more purchases in the future with the company.

Product quality also plays an important role when consumers recommend a bran, with three in four or 75% saying it is the biggest driver. Another 37% said company incentives is a reason for making a recommendation, followed by 23% who said a surprise give away inside their package will do it.


With so much importance consumers place on shipping, businesses must do more to lower or altogether eliminate shipping costs.

In the report, Dotcom Distribution says a business has to find ways to minimize its own shipping costs to relieve shoppers of delivery fees.

The company says this can improve the image of your brand and keep your customers for the long run.

You can take a look at more of the data in the infographic below and download the full report here.

Free Shipping is Better Than Fast for Ecommerce Consumers


Image: Dotcom Distribution


Michael Guta Michael Guta is the Assistant Editor at Small Business Trends and currently manages its East African editorial team. Michael brings with him many years of content experience in the digital ecosystem covering a wide range of industries. He holds a B.S. in Information Communication Technology, with an emphasis in Technology Management.

3 Reactions
  1. This is nice to know. It seems that free shipping is very important and can even prevent some people from buying.

  2. This goes for free items as well. It seems that there are more shoppers if there are limited time freebies or promos.

  3. Amazon made free shipping and stellar customer service the new norm for online shoppers. Everybody else needs to keep up or risk losing their customers. Thanks for the post!