Biggest E-Commerce Irritant? Post-Purchase Problems

Preliminary holiday e-Commerce sales reports have been encouraging, but they don’t tell the whole story: 61% of global consumers felt let down by their online shopping experience during the period, up from 47% in 2017 and 41% in 2016, according to the 2018 Pitney Bowes Global Ecommerce Study. While the U.S. had a lower percentage of shopper dissatisfaction than the global average, 56%, that percentage represents a dramatic increase from the 2017 figure of 36%.

Retailers have been making strides in eliminating friction during the shopper journey, from introducing AI-powered curation to helping shoppers try before they buy with augmented reality. However, the pain points irritating shoppers occur mostly after their orders have been placed. Common complaints include late delivery, expensive shipping, tracking inaccuracies, confusing return policies and lost or incorrect items.


“More and more, consumers are telling us that the post-purchase experience – what happens after the order – is every bit as important, if not more, than the shopping experience that occurs before the order,” said Lila Snyder, President of Commerce Services at Pitney Bowes in a statement. “The silver lining for retailers: consumers are giving you the blueprint for how to get it right, and those who get it right will be rewarded with customer loyalty and revenue growth.”

Retailers may be victims of their own success: 30% of U.S. shoppers now make an online purchase at least once a week, up from just 19% a year ago. While this means more sales overall, it also means more shoppers are waiting for packages, so the need to keep up with demand is taxing retailers’ delivery infrastructure and technology.

An estimated 8% of packages handled by UPS and FedEx had delayed deliveries during the 2018 holiday season, according to a study by Industries including wine, electronics and apparel saw a 120% increase in deliveries during the holiday season, which generated a massive sales boost but likewise caused a significant jump in the number of delays.

Smart Delivery And Return Policies Create Satisfied Customers

Retailers can’t afford to let these issues go unaddressed: Pitney Bowes found that in response to a bad post-purchase experience, 90% of U.S. online shoppers will take action that can hurt a retailer’s brand.. These can range from sharing their frustrations on social media to never purchasing from that site again. Millennials in particular are happy to go public: 30% will complain in an online review or social media post after they experience post-purchase issues.

Pitney Bower found that high-growth retailers (25% or greater year-over-year revenue growth) place a greater emphasis on the post-purchase consumer experience, which includes offering services like free returns, day-definite guaranteed delivery and easy returns with preprinted labels. Nearly half (49%) of shoppers consider “free and easy returns” to be a priority, so meeting these needs gives top retailers a tangible advantage.

“Fast” (66%) and “free” (80%) are the two most important criteria U.S. shoppers consider when deciding where to shop online, and 91% of shoppers will leave a web site if such services aren’t available. However, retailers must understand what shoppers mean when they demand these features:

  • Only 47% consider two-day free shipping “fast”; and
  • Two-thirds feel it is acceptable to have a minimum purchase requirement of $25 or higher to trigger free shipping.

Even if retailers can’t meet shoppers’ exact definition of fast, a short window is undeniably more effective: 54% of high-growth retailers offer two- to three-day free shipping, while 60% of low-growth retailers (10% or less year-over-year revenue growth) offer four- to seven-day free shipping.

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