General, Retail

Amazon’s Free, One-Day Shipping for Cheap Items Will Be a Hit

Image Credit: Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

The days of cramming a bunch of cheap, random add-on items into your Amazon Prime shopping cart to qualify for the site’s coveted free one-day shipping could be gone for good. 

This October, Vox published an article about Amazon’s new policy of offering free one-day shipping on Prime-eligible items regardless of price. 

In a study of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, CivicScience researched the effect that this new policy could have on Americans’ typical retail shopping habits. Suffice it to say that the results look good for Amazon and not-so-good for brick-and-mortar retailers. 

Among those who have an Amazon Prime account, a majority of respondents (58%) said they would be at least “somewhat likely” to use free next-day shipping to buy individual small items. That includes 24% who said they would be “very likely” to do so. 

Given that 53% of the U.S. adults that CivicScience surveyed within the past year said they currently have an Amazon Prime account, this desire to replace “quick trips to the store” with “quick trips to Amazon.com” could have a huge effect on the US retail landscape.

Who’s Most Likely to Use Amazon for Small-Ticket Items?

Those who are most interested in this idea tend to be wealthier, well-educated, and suburban.

While one might be tempted to guess that younger generations would be the most interested in this concept, it’s not that simple. Yes, Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to say they’re “very likely” to place low-cost orders on Amazon. But Gen X isn’t too far behind in that regard (25%), and 35- to 54-year-olds actually take the cake for the highest overall level of interest (65%):

Potential Effects on Big-Box Retailers

Fifty-five percent of people favorable to Target said they were at least somewhat likely to order cheap goods on Amazon with free one-day shipping. That’s slightly higher than the rate for Walmart favorables, 52% of whom are at least somewhat likely to do so:

It’s possible that price may play a factor in this process, as well as convenience. People who are “very interested” in using Amazon Prime’s free shipping for small orders are also far more likely to have taken a look at a product in-store, only to buy it online later — suggesting they were searching for a better price.

Along those same lines, those who are “very likely” to order individual small items on Amazon are also the most likely to say they’re “very careful” about spending money — though, to be fair, that cohort also contains the largest percentage of people who have “a lot of difficulty” controlling spending. 

People who’d prefer to wait a day to receive a low-cost item in the mail rather than going to a store are also more likely to feel the same way about restaurants. They use or intend to use online food delivery services like UberEats and DoorDash at more than twice the rate of others. 

The same principle also applies with mail-order food kits (such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, etc.) and online car dealerships. It seems this cohort just prefers online experiences to in-person purchases. 

Overall, Amazon’s move toward free, one-day shipping for low-ticket items seems likely to siphon away at least some of the business that big-box stores have become accustomed to receiving. That goes especially for higher-income suburbanites — and those who’ve already adapted to the digital / delivery economy.  

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