In the face of rapidly rising customer expectations around cost and convenience, delivery and returns options have never been more crucial to brand loyalty, new PFS research has revealed. In fact, when looking at achieving the ideal online shopping experience in 2022, free delivery/shipping is no.1 on consumer’s wish lists for a great online experience (66%). Meanwhile – over half (54%) of consumers want multiple options to return a product, as they look for an experience that fits with their busy lifestyles. Brands neglect the returns process at their peril, with two-thirds (67%) of shoppers admitting that they are put off a brand entirely if the returns process is too difficult.
With more than half (56%) of UK and US consumers most likely to shop for leisure or non-essential purchases online in 2022, understanding the preferences of today’s shopper and accommodating their wants and needs around delivery and returns is more critical than ever. To understand these demands, PFS took a “pulse check” of the expectations of today’s consumers.
The findings revealed that:
- When asked about the most important factors influencing their decision to make multiple purchases from the same brand/retailer, consumers were mostly driven by free delivery (37%) and competitive/attractive prices (33%)
- In the UK especially, shoppers are more driven by cost than brand loyalty (31%)
- The desire to get the best price above all else was highlighted by shoppers (63%) – who agreed that buying a sustainable product is important, but so too is getting the best price – this may be found at online marketplaces or retail giants such as Amazon
- Free returns (23%) and good customer service (22%) were also key factors influencing last year’s purchasing decisions for multiple purchases from the same brand/retailer for non-essential or leisure items – with eight-in-ten consumers (80%) reporting convenience to be important
- For the brands who were able to accommodate this across both online and offline channels, their efforts were recognised. Highlighted by over half of consumers (54%) agreeing that retailers are getting better at creating a seamless look and feel across channels, this all adds to driving brand loyalty among shoppers
Cost and convenience vs sustainability
Sustainable packaging, delivery and returns options at the checkout also form part of the ideal experience for 35% of consumers – rising to 38% in the UK and highlighting consumer desire to shop more sustainably. However, cost versus conscience continues to be an area that both consumers and brands struggle to balance with the higher cost of sustainable products holding consumers back from making more eco-friendly purchases (34%). It seems that whilst brands are putting more effort and investment into becoming more sustainable, this isn’t necessarily being recognised by consumers. A quarter (26%) of respondents find it difficult to understand which brands actively support sustainable initiatives.
Brand loyalty in 2022
With one-in-five (20%) of consumers admitting they don’t feel any emotional connection to a brand at all, the pressure is on for brands to build and retain loyalty by appealing to demands around cost and convenience, but also ensuring prestige levels of service and quality.
Jamie Saucedo, Senior Vice President of Business Operations at PFS said: “2021 has been another challenging year for retail, dealing with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and Brexit, and battling through a sea of shortages – from raw materials to labour and infrastructure. Amid this turbulence, we cannot ignore that consumer attitudes have altered, and retailers and brands need to recognise that brand loyalty is no longer what it once was. To appeal to and build loyalty with today’s consumer, cost, convenience and consciousness around sustainability need to be brought to the forefront of operations – and that involves providing a range of options around delivery and returns that seamlessly integrate across eCommerce channels.”
For more research findings and to gain further insights from the research, visit the blog here.
 For leisure or non-essential items over the last 12 months