New uShip Report: Online Shoppers Banking on Returns This Holiday Season

Data finds escalating consumer expectations to streamline shipping and returns is putting online sellers in a precarious position

AUSTIN, Texas--()--uShip, the fast, easy and sustainable platform for shipping large or bulky items, today released its Consumer Holiday Shipping Report, which explores consumer expectations and preferences when it comes to shipping and returns ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Conducted by third-party research firm, Censuswide, this report features insights from over 2,000 Americans.

Consumers’ returns-first strategy signals shift in buying habits – businesses, brace yourselves

Even after the shopping peak is over, businesses of all sizes need to plan for e-commerce’s neglected underbelly: returns.

  • Last year, 48% of consumers returned at least one gift or more to the seller – this year, they are predicting similar behaviors with 40% saying they’ll return at least one or more gifts.
  • Not only are consumers prepared to return unwanted gifts, almost 1/3 (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.
  • 31% of consumers said they’d buy from one retailer over the other if they offer free shipping and returns.
  • 32% of respondents said they plan to only purchase from retailers who offer free shipping and free returns.

“Our Consumer Holiday Shipping Report suggests ‘free returns’ is the new ‘free shipping,’” said Heather Hoover-Salomon, CEO of uShip. “With one-third of buyers making returns a part of their buying strategy, retailers need to offer a consumer-friendly return policy – or risk losing customers to the competition.”

Shoppers add sustainable delivery to their growing list of shipping demands

Online shopper preferences – and pet peeves – continue to expand, putting added pressure on retailers and sellers. Sustainable shipping is a priority of nearly two-thirds of consumers, who also indicate they plan to procrastinate their holiday shopping into December, further putting strain on sellers.

  • Almost 2/3 (63%) of consumers said they would be more likely to purchase from a certain retailer if they prioritized sustainable shipping.
  • 30% reported they will shop either in early December or the week before Christmas.
  • 31% of consumers said they’d buy from one retailer over the other if they offer free shipping and returns, proving that free shipping is a competitive advantage for vendors.
  • One-third (33%) of consumers said delayed shipments represented their biggest pet peeve of the 2022 holiday shopping season.

Consumer perception: Big items equal big delivery headaches

Consumers have become accustomed to lightning-fast parcel delivery, so when it comes to large and bulky goods – furniture, rowing machines, and ebikes, for example – many buyers expect similar speed. In fact, the perception of complexity and long delivery time are deterring them from buying big items online.

  • 31% of consumers said a complicated shipping and delivery process would deter them from following through on their purchase of a large item.
  • This is followed by a quarter (25%) citing another deterrent: the expected delivery date is too long.

Whether consumer expectations are reasonable is up for debate, but one thing is clear: businesses need to – at the very least – be upfront about their large item delivery timeframe.

“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,” said Hoover-Salomon. “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.”

Learn more about the findings from uShip’s 2023 Consumer Holiday Shipping Report, including further analysis and recommendations for businesses.

Report Methodology

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Censuswide. Total sample size was 2,028 nationally representative US consumers. Fieldwork was undertaken between the fifth and seventh of September 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures are representative of all US adults aged 16+. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

About uShip

uShip makes it quick, easy, and affordable to ship large or bulky items. From cars to cranes and furniture to freight, our straightforward and transparent platform helps people, businesses, and e-commerce sellers ship with incredible speed and efficiency. uShip works with leading retail platforms like Etsy, eBay, AptDeco and Chairish. Launched in 2004, uShip is based in Austin, Texas.

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Diffusion, on behalf of uShip


Diffusion, on behalf of uShip