For 95% of online consumers, better shipping options are the key to holiday sales

With just under three weeks left until Christmas, shoppers are searching for the last few Christmas gifts and much of that shopping will happen online. With a lot of people buying gifts that are similarly priced on multiple websites, other factors (other than which site they found first) plays a deciding in role in determining where they shop. A recent study found that shipping options are among the most influential factors for shoppers looking for Christmas gifts.

A recent survey from Shutl made it very clear that customers are highly aware of the shipping costs and time frames when buying things online. Even if the customer was at a particular retailer's site first, and the pricing was similar, nearly all the people surveyed said poor shipping could ruin the deal.

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Before diving into the data on delivery, let's look at some promising overall numbers for online retailers this holiday seasons. Shutl's survey revealed that that percentage of people who plan to shop online this Christmas has almost doubled. More than half (52 percent) of consumers plan to do some Christmas shopping online in 2016, compared to just 30 percent last year.

While retailers can certainly rejoice over the increase in online shopping, there are some areas for concern. One in five shoppers surveyed (20 percent) reported they find Christmas shopping the most stressful part of Christmas. And another quarter of the respondents (25 percent) said they wish Christmas shopping was easier. One way to make Christmas shopping easier, and more inviting, for consumers is to simplify the shipping options.

In this study of over 1,000 online shoppers, 95 percent said they would consider shopping at another site if the shipping options available at one site weren't suitable for their needs. To think of it another way, that like saying only one customer in 20 would continue to shop at a store even if they weren't happy with the available shipping options. No business owner would actively try to scare off 19 out of 20 customers, so it's clearly worth the effort to provide the best possible shipping options.

Of course, saying that they would consider shopping on another site doesn't mean that they necessarily would. But even when accounting for the fact that some of that 95 percent would still eventually buy from the retailer with poor shipping options, how big is the actual problem?

According to Shutl, nearly two of out of five respondents said they would "definitely" shop somewhere else if they didn't like the shipping options. So it's certainly something for online retailers to consider seriously.

"An on-demand lifestyle is taking hold in the retail space as customers seek instant gratification in more aspects of their everyday life," said Jason Travaria, head of Shutl, according to media reports. "Technology is facilitating a shift in control, making it easier for customers to shop around online and setting higher expectations in the process. For retailers, this means that the one part of the supply chain process that the retailer usually has least control over - delivery - is becoming the deciding factor at securing sales."

All of this isn't to say that business owners have to offering Free Shipping to all orders, all the time. This would certainly be a crowd pleaser, but it may not be feasible for some retailers or certain types of products. But there are other ways to entice shoppers by shipping. For example, offering to upgrade shoppers from regular shipping to priority shipping if they buy more than a certain amount.

With time running out before Christmas day, it's important for retailers to put their best offers on the table and ensure they can arrive to customers quickly and affordably. As they data reviewed above shows, poor shipping can be the death blow to online sales during the holidays.

For more ideas on how to make the most of the last few weeks before Christmas, read this article with advanced Facebook targeting tips that can help you find your target audience.

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