Consumers Trading Brick and Mortar for e-Tailers And Free Shipping

As Americans increasingly rely on the internet for everything from reading the news to paying bills, new research indicates they are more willing to trade brick-and-mortar retailers for e-tailers.

According to Mintel’s Online Shopping US 2015 report, 69% of US online adults shop online at least monthly, with 33% shopping online every week in 2015, up from 24% in 2014. 48% of online shoppers admit to occasionally increasing the size of their orders to hit the free shipping minimum. Consumers are using the growing online marketplace to their advantage, and services and online spending is on the rise. 

Consumers are averaging $114 per online order, says the report, driving online retail sales from $264.2 billion in 2013 to $304.9 billion in 2014. The report shows that free shipping is central to many online shoppers’ experience, so much so that 48% of online shoppers admit to occasionally increasing the size of their orders to hit the free shipping threshold. 

The research shows that the selection of products consumers buy online depends on whether they have an immediate need to use them. The most frequently purchased products by online shoppers in the past year were books/eBooks (29%) women’s apparel at 27%, and footwear (16%) more frequently in 2014.

The common thread within the top three categories consumers report purchasing online, (clothing/accessories (62%), electronics (54%), and games, toys and school supplies (37%)), is that they contain items purchased occasionally, rather than items to be consumed in the immediate or near future. In-demand items are less popular among online shoppers, including personal care items (31%) and furniture/home decor (30%), says the report.

Billy Hulkower, Senior Technology Analyst at Mintel, notes that “… retailers who specialize in occasional purchase categories, like clothing and electronics… most successful in converting their sales mix to higher levels of online orders in 2014... “

“… for retailers that rely on consumables as a staple, integrating online sales proved less successful, despite the availability of same-day delivery and in-store pickup… “ Hulkower continued.

Apparel, accessories and electronics, among the products most commonly purchased online, are sweet spots for online retailing, says the report. Additionally, online women’s apparel and footwear purchases increased in 2015, suggesting that shoppers, particularly women, are warming to the idea that they can try clothes on at home and simply return products they don’t want.

Considering demographic differences, the most notable is the frequency of purchases and purchase size related to the number of children under age 18 in the household. Only 23% of online shoppers without children at home make weekly online purchases, compared to 40% with one child, 56% with two children, and 66% with three or more children.

According to the research, the average online order is larger based on the number of children in the household as well. The average order for households with one child ($123) is significantly higher than that of households with no children ($78). This increases to $177 per order for households with at least three children.

Furthermore, households with more children are more likely to be enrolled in an automatic online reordering service. Among online shoppers in households with three or more children, 22% reported using an online reordering service, as opposed to 6% of those with no children in the household.

“Parents with children at home are more likely to be weekly online shoppers, driven by the combination of a greater need for supplies for their larger households… llimited time for shopping in their busy schedules…  convenience of online reordering… potential cost savings… and… (the freeing of) parents from challenging trips to the store with children who are likely to lobby for unnecessary purchases…” concluded Hulkower.

For the Mintel store for access to the complete study, please visit here. 





3 comments about "Consumers Trading Brick and Mortar for e-Tailers And Free Shipping".
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  1. Sue Macdonald from MacDonald Media, July 29, 2015 at 8:45 a.m.

    Brick-and-mortAr, perhaps?

  2. Jack Loechner from Mediapost Communications, July 29, 2015 at 4:35 p.m.

    yep, that's correct, Sue... but it's the way it shows up in the Brief... did I miss it again somewhere? thanks, j

  3. John Driscoll from School Family Media, July 29, 2015 at 5:05 p.m.

    Surprised to see school supplies listed as one of the top 3 categories people purchase online. With access to specific individual teacher/classroom school supply lists online at places like and Amazon becoming more ubiquitous,  that is likely to help drive online sales in that category even further.

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