In today’s landscape of 24/7 online shopping and its promise of immediate gratification, most Americans want their retail purchases delivered to their doorstep, as cheaply and quickly as possible. Their fast and free shipping preferences reflect the standard set by Amazon’s Prime fulfillment capabilities.
In fact, data from Jungle Scout’s latest Consumer Trends Report reveals that 80% of U.S. consumers expect free shipping on orders above a certain dollar amount, and 66% expect free shipping for all their online orders. On top of that, 41% expect delivery times of two to three days after purchasing — with another 27% expecting same-day or next-day delivery for everything they buy online.
Fulfilling this expectation fast and free shipping is essential for ecommerce sellers vying for buyers among ever-stiffening competition. While there’s a lot to gain from the recent boom in online shopping, the consequences for sub-optimal shipping are serious.
For instance, nearly half (47%) of Americans say they are willing to spend more for a product with faster shipping, and 70% would be upset if an order didn’t arrive on time.
With that in mind, let’s examine the details about what consumers expect in terms of shipping, the impact these conditions have on ecommerce sellers, brands, and platforms — including giants like Amazon and Walmart — and how sellers can fulfill these expectations.
What exactly is “fast” shipping? What ecommerce sellers should know about shipping preferences on Amazon
In 2021, two- or three-day shipping times are the gold standard for online orders — two in five consumers expect their deliveries to arrive in this window. One week is the definitive upper limit for online order delivery satisfaction, with 91% of consumers expecting delivery within seven days of purchase. Just 4% expect shipping to take more than a week’s time. That’s less than half as many as the 9% who expect to receive their orders on the same day of purchase.
Same-day delivery has become a persuasive component of the online shopping experience. When asked about the delivery options that would most influence them to make a purchase online, consumers ranked same-day delivery on top, edging out free return shipping and deliveries scheduled for specific time slots.
The 2-day shipping standard
In order to succeed, ecommerce sellers need to support the needs of this growing cohort of fast-shipping devotees. So, what other shopping behaviors and preferences are exhibited by the 41% of U.S. consumers who expect two-day delivery? Let’s investigate.
Consumers want shipping to be fast and free
For the most part, free shipping is also non-negotiable for these consumers. 84% say they expect free shipping if they order a certain dollar amount, and 70% say they expect free shipping on all orders. The moral of the story here is that sellers should consider providing free, two-day shipping whenever possible.
Consumers want the right information about their shipment
Roughly 84% of these consumers expect parcel tracking for all orders, and to be notified when their item has left the warehouse. But don’t send them too many notifications — 63% say they dislike online retailers that send them too many emails before or after they’ve placed an order. Shoppers also expect 24/7 access to customer service (72%), and would be even more upset than average if their product didn’t arrive on time (72%).
Consumers want affordable, proven quality
Fast-shipping fans are interested in products with the best ratings and reviews (70%), the lowest price (66), and most impressive features (55%). Compared to the average consumer, they’re slightly less likely to spend more for a product for faster shipping (45%).
Offering fast and free shipping presents enormous opportunity for ecommerce sellers
You could be forgiven for thinking fans of fast and free shipping have high expectations when shopping online — they want convenience, information, and access to affordable, high-quality products delivered in a flash. The good news is that these consumers shop a lot.
Over three-quarters have increased or maintained their spending online (79%) and on Amazon (77%) in 2021 versus 2020. More specifically, they’re spending the same or more in top online product categories like clothing, beauty and personal care, and electronics.
Fast-shipping fans buying more or the same in 2021
Vitamins & Dietary Supplements
Beauty & Personal Care
Books (print or digital), Magazines & Newspapers
Home & Kitchen
Garden & Outdoor
Automotive Parts & Accessories
Toys & Games
Arts, Crafts & Sewing
Tobacco, Pipes & Accessories
This group shops online frequently — over two-thirds make online purchases at least once a week. The majority shop at least a couple times each month on Amazon and Walmart.com.
At least weekly
At least twice a month
Their other shopping behaviors indicate opportunities for increased spending in the near future. For one thing, many underwent pricey lifestyle changes in the past year, such as:
- Adopting a new pet (17%)
- Buying or selling a home (16%)
- Having a baby (6%)
- Getting engaged or married (5%)
And by September 2021, most of these consumers will be comfortable resuming pre-pandemic activities that could involve supporting purchases in the travel, clothing, and office supply categories:
- Visiting relatives or family (78%)
- Working in an office outside the home (65%)
- Attending a wedding (60%)
- Getting on an airplane (52%)
Here’s some more good news: 86% say their incomes are the same or higher now than they were earlier in 2021.
Do Amazon and Walmart meet consumer demands for fast and low-cost shipping?
Through its Prime member program, Amazon famously guarantees free, one- or two-day shipping on most of its extensive product catalog. Walmart offers similar fast-and-free shipping perks with its Walmart+ program. The programs help make these ecommerce giants go-to sources for in-a-pinch purchases. To that end, 72% of consumers who prioritize fast shipping are Prime members, and another 37% belong to Walmart+.
Here are some of the benefits Prime and Walmart+ members receive.
$12.99/mo or $199/yr
$12.95/mo or $98/yr
Free same-day delivery
Yes (with $35 minimum order)
Yes (with $35 minimum order)
Free 1-2-day delivery
Free grocery delivery
Yes (with $35 minimum order)
Yes (with $35 minimum order)
Media streaming services
Even without belonging to Prime or Walmart+, shoppers can still get free shipping if they spend a certain dollar amount — $25 on Amazon and $35 on Walmart.com.
Amazon and Walmart are mainstays for consumers not just because of their quick delivery speeds — they also offer the prices, products, and brands consumers like. They are the most-preferred retailers of consumers who expect fast shipping, beating out other big players like Target, eBay, and Costco.
Top retailers for fast shipping fans
Percent of consumers who shop in 2021
Specialty, independent, local or boutique websites
Consumers appreciate Amazon’s speed and stock
Outlook on Amazon is favorable among the 41% of consumers that expect fast shipping:
- 37% say that when they’re shopping for a product and need to get it fast, they go to Amazon.com to buy it
- 61% I have greater appreciation for Amazon now than prior to COVID-19
- 64% Amazon has provided products that they could not get anywhere else during the COVID-19 pandemic
- 51% are willing to spend more for a product for faster shipping when shopping on Amazon (it’s 44% for Walmart.com)
And though 31% of these consumers have noticed their online orders arriving more slowly since COVID began, only 8% say they haven’t shopped on Amazon in 2021 due to inconsistent shipping times.
Walmart wins with budget-conscious shoppers
Walmart’s appeal is strong among price-conscious shoppers who recognize it as a reliable source for their favorite brands. When asked why they shop at Walmart, consumers who prefer fast delivery also say that they:
- Like Walmart’s prices (50%)
- Are familiar with Walmart’s products (39%)
- Can find find the brands they’re looking for at Walmart (36%)
- Find the website easy to use and navigate (32%)
- Have always shopped at Walmart (34%)
The impact of fast and free shipping expectations on ecommerce
To today’s consumer, two-day shipping is nothing to write home about. After all, everyone from Apple to Sunglass Hut have made 48-hour delivery times standard for online orders, with many retailers offering same-day delivery for last-minute purchases.
But it wasn’t always like this. To understand why consumers’ desire for super-fast shipping is a big deal for ecommerce sellers, it helps to remember that fast shipping in retail is a relatively new concept.
In the not-so-distant past, same-day delivery for your average Amazon product would have been unthinkable. Shipping small items individually was prohibitively expensive. Orders placed after regular business hours would have to wait to be attended to until workers returned the next day. And Sunday delivery? Forget about it.
Amazon has since made big changes to support the needs of the increasingly-online consumer, taking shipping industry standards along with it. In 2005, it launched the Amazon Prime program, offering free, two-day shipping for millions of products to its new crop of subscribers. Fast shipping remains a key perk of Prime membership, which is now supported by a vast network of Amazon and third-party fulfillment centers around the globe. That means that sellers on Amazon’s platform also have to adapt in order to satisfy buyers, or risk being outstripped by their Prime-eligible competitors. The same goes for Walmart sellers, whose customers have similar shipping needs.
How sellers can guarantee fast shipping for Amazon and Walmart.com customers
There are two ways in which sellers can live up to Amazon’s Prime shipping guarantee: use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or enroll in Seller-Fulfilled Prime (SFP), which involves Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM).
If you opt for FBA, all you have to do to ensure free and fast shipping is send your product inventory to an Amazon warehouse. Amazon’s fulfillment staff takes care of the rest, including storing your products, packing and shipping orders to your customers, and handling returns.
Using SFP as an FBM seller is a bit more complicated. You’ll have to either handle all of that fulfillment work yourself, or outsource it to a third-party logistics provider (3PL) that can guarantee two-day shipping (fortunately, options are plentiful).
Note: Learn more about selling with FBA vs FBM in our comparison guide.
There are benefits, drawbacks, and fees associated with either choice, but the vast majority (92%) of Amazon sellers use FBA. About a third (34%) of sellers use a combination of FBA and FBM, while just 9% use FBM exclusively. During 2020, more sellers adopted the FBM method, likely due to new, COVID-related FBA inventory storage restrictions.
Sellers have similar fulfillment options when it comes to Walmart Marketplace. In February 2020, Walmart launched the Walmart Fulfillment Services program, which provides many of FBA’s money- and time-saving perks. For a fixed monthly fee, sellers using WFS can store their products in Walmart fulfillment centers, provide free, two-day shipping for customers, and rest easy knowing Walmart manages all customer service inquiries and returns on their behalf.
Note: Learn more about selling on Walmart with our comprehensive guide.
By handling their own fulfillment needs, Amazon and Walmart sellers stand to save some money on the storage and packing fees they’d otherwise pay to the platforms. But by making shipping free for the customer, they’ll have to swallow the associated costs. On top of that, making sure every order ships quickly is tough, especially as daily order volume rises. So while it’s not uncommon to pack and ship orders from your own home in the early stages of selling — or to keep some inventory close by in case of emergencies — it helps to lean on the fulfillment experts as your business grows.
Fast and free shipping should be a priority for ecommerce sellers
Plain and simple, online shoppers expect fast and free shipping — and many are willing to pay more for competing products if it means they’ll receive their order faster. Ecommerce sellers can benefit from online shopping’s rising popularity by guaranteeing one- or two-day shipping for their customers, free of charge. Whether they sell on Amazon or Walmart, established fulfillment networks make it easy to give customers what they want.
Which fulfillment method do you use for your ecommerce business? Let us know what works best in the comments.