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Competing in the Amazon era: What retailers need to know

The 2019 eCommerce Fulfillment & Logistics report reveals the delivery promise gap between retailers and consumers

In the age of Amazon, staying competitive is no easy feat. The retail goliath accounts for about 50% of eCommerce sales, putting immense pressure on everyone else to match what they can do. Since Amazon announced its move to one-day Prime delivery, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and more have all clamored to keep up.

But there’s a fundamental flaw with this: No one can match what Amazon does. To execute on their delivery promise, Amazon absorbs more than $27 billion in shipping costs every year. So, how can retailers hope to compete?

In our 2019 eCommerce Fulfillment and Logistics report, we explore the gap between what customers want and what retailers are providing. Read on for a high-level look at the insights we uncovered, stay tuned for more blog posts centered around our findings, and be sure to download the full 2019 eCommerce and Logistics report to learn how to remain competitive in today’s challenging retail climate.

Download the 2019 eCommerce Fulfillment and Logistics report >>

The problem: Fast vs free shipping

A major challenge for retailers is prioritizing their delivery promise. Do you optimize for fast shipping? Free shipping? Or some combination of both?

Deloitte found that 88% of consumers prefer free shipping over fast shipping. Yet, our survey revealed that retailers think its equally important to offer both free (63%) and fast (64%) shipping, despite understanding that their customers want free shipping over fast by a 2:1 margin. The data from the survey reveals there is pressure to keep up with the new, faster shipping precedent that Amazon has set.

That becomes a problem when it comes at the expense of what customers actually want. When we looked at the delivery offerings from our 2019 survey respondents, we found that retailers are, by-in-large, optimizing for fast shipping instead of free shipping.

2019 Delivery Offerings

Delivery timesOfferedWith free shipping?With shipping fees?
3-5 day78%50%50%
6-10 day54%57%43%
10+ days42%53%47%

Fast shipping (same-, next-, and two-day) was offered primarily at a price. Retailers that offer a 3-5 day delivery time, only offer it for free 50% of the time. 6+ day delivery times are more frequently offered for free, but the average customer is only willing to wait 4.5 days.

What’s at stake? Losing your customers

Retailers that are choosing to compete with Amazon over giving their customers what they want run the risk of losing those customers. Sixty-five percent of consumers report that “they look up free-shipping thresholds before adding items to their online shopping carts,” and 29% percent have abandoned a purchase because two-day shipping wasn’t offered for free.

The industry average shopping cart abandonment rate is 68% and the number one reason for cart abandonment is because extra costs (shipping, taxes, and fees) were too high (53%). With abandonment rates this high, retailers can’t neglect customer preferences.

Barriers to offering a better delivery promise

Finding out what your customers want is the first step, but executing comes down to your logistics. According to our respondents, the primary obstacles to offering a better delivery promise are costs and network limitations.

Fast and free shipping is expensive. More than half (53%) of survey respondents cited “outbound costs are too high” as a reason for not offering free shipping, and 37% cited it as a reason for not offering fast (1-2 day) shipping.

Meanwhile, 74% of respondents have only 1-3 fulfillment centers in their network. With a logistics network of that size, it’s extremely difficult to offer fast and free delivery due to the long distance goods must travel to get to customers.

How to overcome these challenges

Positioning your inventory closer to your consumers is the only way to improve your delivery promise and lower transportation costs. With on-demand warehousing, retailers and brands can add fulfillment centers to their network, position goods closer to their customers, and save on last-mile transportation times and costs (win-win).

Keeping up with Amazon may be like trying to hit a moving target, but meeting the demands of your own customers will always be more important.

For specifics on how on-demand warehousing can reduce shipping costs and improve your delivery promise, download the entire 2019 eCommerce Fulfillment and Logistics report below.