Escalating consumer expectations to streamline shipping and returns is putting online sellers in a precarious position, according to a report from uShip, which provides a platform for shipping large or bulky items.
Even after the shopping peak is over, businesses of all sizes will need to plan for e-commerce’s “neglected underbelly,” returns, according to the uShip’s survey of 2,028 Americans, which was conducted online during September by third-party research firm, Censuswide.
Not only are 40% of consumers planning to return unwanted gifts, almost a third (31%) of consumers are making returns part of their shopping strategy, saying they plan to buy multiple items knowing they’ll have the option to return later. That’s why 31% of consumers said they’d buy from one retailer over the other if they offer free shipping and returns, and 32% of respondents said they plan to only purchase from retailers who offer free shipping and free returns.
And online shopper preferences continue to expand, putting added pressure on retailers and sellers. For example, almost two thirds (63%) of consumers said they would be more likely to purchase from a certain retailer if they prioritized sustainable shipping, and almost one third (31%) said they’d buy from one retailer over the other if they offer free shipping and returns. But despite those demands, they want their deliveries on time—33% of consumers said delayed shipments represented their biggest pet peeve of the 2022 holiday shopping season.
In fact, consumers have become so accustomed to lightning-fast parcel delivery that many buyers expect similar speed when it comes to large and bulky goods such as furniture, rowing machines, and e-bikes. The survey showed that a perception of complexity and long delivery time is deterring some shoppers from buying big items online.
“Large and bulky items often serve as one of the highest profit purchases for retailers, and yet, the data reveals that consumers are avoiding these during the holiday gifting season because of a perceived poor shipping and returns process,” Heather Hoover-Salomon, CEO of uShip, said in a release. “In the end, retailers have a revenue-building opportunity if they can meaningfully address these concerns and rewrite consumers’ sentiments about what the large goods purchasing experience can look like.”