Deliveries and returns are an inescapable part of e-commerce, yet there are few accepted norms within the industry.

Delivery times and cost vary across retailers and product categories, and can have a major impact on a consumer’s purchase decision.

To find out what consumers expect from online retailers, UPS and comScore have published the findings of a survey of more than 3,000 US consumers.

Free and discounted shipping are cited as key factors, as are delivery timing and communication.

Some of the reports findings are published below, and you can also read our 14 best practice tips for handling online returns.

Shopper satisfaction

Almost nine out of ten (86%) of respondents said they were satisfied with online shopping overall.

Satisfaction was highest for ease of checkout (83%), variety of brands/products (82%) and online tracking ability (79%).

However some of the lowest satisfaction scores were for the delivery and returns process.

When asked what aspect of online shopping retailers wanted to improve, 58% chose free or discounted shipping.

This was followed by ease of returns/exchanges (42%), and variety of brands/products and online tracking ability (both 38%).

Retailer recommendation

When asked what would lead or has led to a recommendation of a retailer, the availability of free shipping or discounted shipping is the top factor.

Timely arrival of shipments and free or easy returns were the next most important factors.

“Since 41% of shoppers said 'receiving my product when expected' led them to recommend a retailer, both proactive communication regarding delivery time and reliable delivery are critical aspects to a positive customer experience.”

Cart abandonment

There are numerous reasons why shoppers abandon their purchases, but shipping costs appear to be one of the key factors.

ComScore’s research shows that more than half (55%) of respondents have abandoned a cart as shipping costs made the total purchase cost more than expected.

Furthermore, 40% said that they had cancelled a purchase as the shipping and handling costs were listed too late.

“About 70% of online shoppers have added items to their shopping cart to qualify for free shipping, making it critical for online retailers to clearly indicate the level of spend required for free shipping.”

Looking at what information is important to shoppers at the checkout, 73% said they wanted to see free shipping options.

Almost two-thirds of respondents (60%) said an estimated or guaranteed delivery date was important.

Delivery timing

Online shoppers have a range of delivery time they are willing to wait for the delivery of their orders.

As such, retailers that offer a range of delivery time options allow themselves to appeal to a wider range of customers.

The report found that 48% of customers are not willing to wait more than five days for most of their purchases, while 23% said they would be willing to wait eight days or more.

Shoppers also want to be kept up-to-date with the delivery timing.

Just under half (45%) of respondents wanted email or text notifications with a tracking number, while 31% wanted to be able to track the shipment directly on the retailer’s website.


ComScore’s survey found that returns are an integral part of creating an enjoyable online shopping experience.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents said they look for the returns policy prior to making a purchase and 62% have returned a product bought online.

“A lenient and clear returns policy is likely to lead to recommendations and repeat business from online shoppers.”

Almost half of respondents (48%) said they would be likely to shop more often with a retailer or recommend a retailer to a friend if the retailer had a lenient and easy-to-understand returns policy.

The returns experience also needs to be convenient for shoppers. 62% of respondents expect to be given a returns label and 57% want an automatic refund.

Two-thirds (66%) of respondents cited having to pay for shipping as the biggest problem when returning goods.

David Moth

Published 6 June, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (5)

Jeremy Spiller

Jeremy Spiller, MD at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Very useful report and some superb insights. Interesting that 86% of people reported being satisfied with online shopping overall. I think this is reflected in the year on year growth we're seeing in online retail.

It struck me over the week-end that as the Ebook market continues to grow at the rate it is, we'll see a decline in the second hand book market at charity stores and church fetes, meaning less income for them from these.

While having a Kindle I managed to snag half a dozen almost new hardbacks at about £1 each over the week-end, so that's going to be a shame for both buyers and sellers of such things. Mind you, having less paper books will mean more space for gadgets at home.

about 6 years ago

Kathy Heslop

Kathy Heslop, Director of Communications at Ve Interactive

Very interesting article David. Here at Ve Interactive (the cart recovery & remarketing experts), we have over 1,600 ecommerce clients worldwide (& growing). The quantity of transactions that we are processing therefore is beyond staggering. We would be delighted to share some statistics with you.

about 6 years ago


Lukas Pitra

Very useful insights in there, I wonder how different these numbers may be for european customers.

about 6 years ago


Bez Walker

Great summary of user perception, especially on the free shipping carrot.

It would be good to understand if these statistics change when users are making purchasing decisions from market segments outside the norm (i.e non consumer goods).

We for instance are in the building sector and feel that hiding the significant cost of delivery in our online product cost is the worse of two evils.

about 6 years ago


Bernie Thornton

As a consumer I must confess that free shipping can influence my purchasing decision, particularly if there are many retailers offering the same product. However, it could be argued that a shipping cost should be assigned to purchases made online in order to draw attention to the environmental impact of transporting goods.

about 6 years ago

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