Pitney Bowes Online Shopping Study: Consumer Dissatisfaction with Holiday Shopping Experience Doubles to 60% in Four Years

Fast and Free Shipping, Free and Easy Returns, Accurate Tracking and On-time Deliveries Top Online Shoppers’ Wish Lists this Holiday Season


Pitney Bowes Online Shopping Study 2019 (Graphic: Business Wire)

STAMFORD, Conn.--()--Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI), a global technology company that provides commerce solutions in the areas of ecommerce, shipping, mailing, data and financial services, today released the results of its annual Online Shopping Study. Among the Study’s key findings: 60% of online shoppers in the US are dissatisfied with their holiday shopping experiences, up four percentage points from last year, and nearly double the number from just four years ago.

The Study also found that the more often you shop, the more likely you are to be frustrated. Seventy-three percent of frequent online shoppers (those who shop online daily, or weekly) and 74% of millennials said they were disappointed in some aspect of the post-purchase experience last holiday season.

The top three reasons for consumer frustration are: delayed shipments; shipping costs; and inaccurate tracking.

“Despite the significant investments retailers and marketplaces are making in the online shopping experience, consumers continue to be disappointed, especially around the holidays,” said Lila Snyder, EVP and President, Commerce Services at Pitney Bowes. “As an even larger percentage of consumer spending is expected to shift online this holiday season, retailers need to shift resources and investments to areas like fast and free shipping, accurate tracking and free and easy returns to keep up with consumer expectations.”

Root Canals and Revenge

This year’s Study included a number of questions asking consumers to associate an online shopping experience with an emotion (“love it! / hate it.”), or a range of universally enjoyable, or unpleasant experiences, such as “taking a vacation” or “having a root canal.”

For example, 86% equated some aspect of a poor post-purchase experience to “having a root canal,” especially these unpleasant events:

  • receiving a wrong or damaged item 72%
  • taking too long to get a refund after returning an item 64%
  • an inconvenient returns process 60%
  • having to pay for shipping 47%

When a retailer puts a consumer through one of these unpleasant experiences, they do so to the detriment of their brand. For the second year in a row, nearly nine out of 10 consumers said that they will make a complaint or take an action that could hurt a brand’s reputation and bottom line following a bad post-purchase experience. Among them, nearly one-third said a bad post-purchase experience is cause for never shopping with the offending brand again.

Fast and Free Shipping, and Free and Easy Returns

On the bright side, online shoppers did offer advice to retailers and marketplaces about how they can improve the post-purchase experience, particularly around fast and free shipping, and free and easy returns.

Free shipping remains the number one loyalty driver an online retailer can offer consumers. In fact, when given the choice between “free” shipping or “fast” shipping” 80% choose “free,” consistent with data collected in each of the past three years. Free shipping was four times more likely to drive consumer loyalty than any other feature that a retailer could offer.

In addition to fast and free shipping, consumers want a free and easy returns process and fast refunds. On average, Amazon refunds consumers 4.5 times faster than other brands.

Returns are on the rise and 51% of all online shoppers, including 66% of millennials, now admit to “bracketing” – purchasing multiple sizes, styles and colors of an item with the intent to return what they don’t want.

Seventy-two percent said they “love” when a return label is included in the package. Seventy percent said they “hate” paying for return shipping even more than missing the returns period and getting stuck with an unwanted item (61%).

“Returns seem to have become an unconscious behavior for some frequent online shoppers,” said Snyder. “In response to our survey, consumers said they return only 10% of their online purchases, but in reality we know the number is much closer to 25%.”

Sixty-six percent of consumers said they “love” home pick-up for returns. Home pick-up is three times more popular than carrier drop-off and four times more popular than in-store drop-off. When home pick-up of a return is not offered by a retailer, consumers admit to compounding the delays by taking, on average, four more days of what Snyder calls, “trunk time” to transport their item from their home to the carrier, or store.

Cross-Border Shopping

The number of cross-border shoppers continues to grow in countries like Australia, Canada, China, Mexico and UK. Of the countries we surveyed, only the US saw a year-over-year decline in the number of cross-border shoppers. Forty-six percent of online shoppers in the US say they have made a cross-border purchase in the past year, versus 49% the year prior.

Of the US consumers who do shop cross-border, nine out of 10 have purchased something from China. Expectations among cross-border shoppers are not dissimilar to those of domestic shoppers, but frustrations with late deliveries and inaccurate tracking are higher, especially on items ordered from China.

Methodology: The 2019 Pitney Bowes Online Shopping Study is based on survey results of more than 8,000 consumers globally. Unless otherwise noted, the information in this press release is based on survey results of more than 3,000 US consumers, ages 18 and up.

The Pitney Bowes Online Shopping Study is one of two annual research reports the company conducts on behalf of its clients and releases publicly. In October, the Company released its annual Parcel Shipping Index which measures parcel volume and spend across 13 major markets globally. The Index found that annual parcel volumes reached 87 billion in 2018 (17% year-over-year growth) and are projected to reach 200 billion in 2025.

Pitney Bowes can help

Pitney Bowes supports retailers and other shippers in the areas of fulfillment, delivery, returns and cross-border. In each of these areas, the Company strives to be the service provider that’s easiest to work with, by being more transparent and offering simpler pricing with fewer and lower surcharges than others in the market.

Services include:

  • Fulfillment services with a nationwide network, automated facilities and seamlessly integrated delivery and returns;
  • Standard delivery of parcels through an extensive US domestic network, leveraging the USPS® for final mile delivery;
  • Cross-border delivery to 207 countries and territories with bundled quoting and compliance services; and
  • Standard domestic returns services that allow retailers to offer free at-home pick-up, convenient drop-off options, and fast refunds.

Pitney Bowes ranked as a top vendor in the International Ecommerce Services, Fulfillment Services and Shipping Carrier categories in Internet Retailer’s2019 Leading Vendors to the Top 1000” E-Retailers report.

About Pitney Bowes

Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI) is a global technology company providing commerce solutions that power billions of transactions. Clients around the world, including 90 percent of the Fortune 500, rely on the accuracy and precision delivered by Pitney Bowes solutions, analytics, and APIs in the areas of ecommerce fulfillment, shipping and returns; cross-border ecommerce; office mailing and shipping; presort services; location data; customer information and engagement software; services; and financing. For nearly 100 years Pitney Bowes has been innovating and delivering technologies that remove the complexity of getting commerce transactions precisely right. For additional information visit Pitney Bowes, the Craftsmen of Commerce, at www.pitneybowes.com.


Brett Cody
Pitney Bowes
M +1 203 218 1187


Brett Cody
Pitney Bowes
M +1 203 218 1187