CHICAGO: Almost a third (31%) of US consumers now shop online at least once a week, but they are inclined to increase their e-commerce activity if retailers offer free shipping and other incentives, a new survey has revealed.

Communications firm Walker Sands polled more than 1,400 US consumers for its Future of Retail 2016 study and found free shipping was the top incentive (88%) to encourage them to shop online more often.

That was followed by one-day shipping (69%), free returns and exchanges (68%) and easier online returns (58%), Marketing Land reported.

In addition, nearly half (49%) said same-day shipping would make them more likely to shop online, but only 9% said they had used same-day shipping over the past year, suggesting that relatively few retailers currently provide the option.

The report also highlighted the importance of integrating in-store and online experiences with the finding that 60% of the most frequent online shoppers have used click-and-collect to pick up online purchases at a physical store. That was four times more than among consumers who shop online only a few times a year.

In addition, around 70% said they would be willing to opt into in-store tracking and mobile push notifications if properly incentivised by retailers, Multichannel Merchant reported.

"The priority for retailers no longer lies in increasing the number of consumers who shop online, but rather improving their experience – whether it be online, in-store or across different product categories," said Dave Parro, partner and vice president at Walker Sands.

"Our findings indicate that retailers should be focusing their current efforts on pragmatic strategies to lay the groundwork for future growth," he added.

Elsewhere, the study explored future technological developments and found US consumers to be receptive to drone deliveries even if that may not happen for a few years.

A full 40% of survey participants said they expect to have drone delivery options within the next two years and almost three-quarters (73%) said they would be willing to pay a delivery fee of up to $10.

Furthermore, 80% of the most frequent online shoppers said they would be more likely to buy from retailers that offered drone delivery, compared to just 53% of infrequent shoppers.

Data sourced from Marketing Land, Multichannel Merchant; additional content by Warc staff