What shoppers want when it comes to holiday shopping

It turns out that the No. 1 retail perk for shoppers is not speedy delivery, according to Deloitte's 30th annual holiday survey of consumer spending intentions and trends.

The survey shows that free shipping is the top retailer policy preferred by shoppers. Furthermore, the ubiquity of personal mobile devices allows consumers to take their time researching purchases and store policies giving them opportunity to request exactly what they want.

"Consumers value their time as much as dollars saved. So when it comes to shipping their holiday purchases bought online, they are expecting free shipping and they want options to get it delivered quickly," said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail and distribution practice leader.

In the store, shoppers prefer self-help technologies that expedite the buying process over other in-store technologies. Topping the list are price checkers (57 %) and self-checkout payment lanes (41 %), well ahead of other tools including kiosks, retailer mobile apps, mobile payments, handheld product scanners, electronic shelf labelling, video screens, beacons and digital signage – all of which came in under 20%.

Nearly 87% of shoppers prioritized free shipping over fast shipping (13%) when purchasing gifts shopping online. In fact, 60% of consumers think they could order after Dec. 17, just one week prior to Christmas Eve, and still receive free shipping. Despite shoppers expecting free shipping to be fast, they are not willing to pay much to expedite their shipping. On average, respondents were willing to pay only an additional $5.10 for same-day delivery.

Mobile purchases rise this year; many minds made up before the store visit. Shoppers we surveyed expect 57 % of their purchases will be on specific items they planned before going to a specific store or website. Just under one-quarter (24%) expect to get inspiration from the store or website, and less than one in five (19 %) expect to make completely unplanned purchases.

Mobile device ownership is at an all-time high: 77 % of surveyed consumers own a smartphone, 56 % own a tablet, and almost half (49 %) own both a smartphone and a tablet. Among the 78 % of smartphone owners who plan to use their devices for holiday shopping, the top uses include researching store locations (60 %), price checking and comparisons (55 %) and online shopping or browsing (50 %). A growing number of smartphone-toting holiday shoppers (41 %) are using their devices to make purchases online, up six percentage points from last year.

Social media continues to influence holiday shoppers with 76 % of all respondents active on social media websites (blogs, discussion boards or social networks), an increase of four percentage points from last year. While 82 % of shoppers plan to use the Internet to research their holiday purchases, 60 % expect to follow recommendations from online retailers specifically.

Of all respondents surveyed, 81% are concerned about retailers that have experienced a data breach, up five percentage points from 2014; however, more than half of consumers (54%) plan to continue shopping at retailers with data breaches in their past. More consumers are concerned about their personal data when shopping online (54%) than in the physical stores (41%). Top concerns for shoppers in terms of data compromises include, in order, loss or theft of identity (83%), fraud (78%), inconveniences from dealing with data compromises (74%), monetary damages (64%), and stolen social security numbers (62%).

While respondents expect to spend 12.5% more on gifts and non-gift items for the holidays overall, 67% plan to buy items on sale and 47% plan to use store coupons while shopping.

While the majority of consumers (75%) surveyed say they plan to remain loyal to certain retailers, the No. 1 motivator for consumers to try a new store or website is to seek better prices (70%).

In regards to refund policies, nearly half of consumers (48%) responding cite refund options, not including store credit, as the most desirable policy. They also considered returns without restocking fees (40%) and free online returns (39%) desirable.

Seven in 10 (70%) plan to shop local this holiday season, primarily to support the local economy (59%) and find one-of-a-kind gifts (54%). Roughly four in 10 go local for convenience (42%) and excellent customer service (38 %).

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