Trucks at Work

Holiday shopping trends and the freight impact

If consumers are lured to shop particular brands or stores via the appeal of “free shipping,” how might that impact the freight industry?

Well, for starters, that might start forcing retailers to “lock in” more freight capacity – as postulated in this story last month – which could ultimately benefit trucking operators.

And if polling data is believed, obtaining “free shipping” is a top consumer demand this holiday season – regardless of whether they shop in an actual store or online.

That’s one of the findings from for the 29th annual holiday shopping survey conducted by global consulting firm Deloitte LLC. (Click here to get a full copy of this particular Deloitte report.) Here are some results for freight carriers to chew over:

  • Whether shopping online or in the store, consumers plan to take advantage of several retailer offerings this year, Deloitte found, including free shipping (68%), free returns (52%), price matching (45%), extended holiday hours (35%), order online for pick up in-store (34%), and free layaway (16%).
  • More than half of respondents (55%) are shopping at malls this holiday season, but nearly three in ten (28%) will visit malls less this year. Among those shopping less at malls, the top three reasons are crowds (49%), better prices elsewhere (42%) and avoiding traffic (36%). And I’ll bet truckers appreciate that last one!
  • The top three detriments cited by those Deloitte polled to shopping in a physical store were long lines (40%), too much traffic (26%), and it doesn’t carry the merchandise they want (25%).
  • Deloitte forecasts that digital interactions will influence 50%, or $345 billion, of retail store sales this holiday season. This figure reflects the extent to which consumers’ use of desktop and laptop computers, tablets and smartphones influence brick-and-mortar store sales.

I touched on some of those trends might impact motor carriers in a story back in September (click here to read that one) yet perhaps the biggest takeaway here is that transportation is being woven more deeply into the “consumer experience” as it applies to delivering retail goods. That’s a trend line that definitely bodes well for trucking.

“For retailers, gaining a competitive edge depends on pulling multiple levers to encourage consumers to shop at one store over another,” noted Alison Paul, Deloitte’s vice chairman and retail sector leader.

“A satisfying in-store experience, an intuitive website, the right in-store innovations, informed store associates, the ability to influence purchases through mobile technology — all of these elements and more help distinguish successful retailers from the others,” she added.

And if truckers can play a more critical role in connecting all of those dates – and reap higher rates as a result – so much the better.

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