Study: Consumers don’t enjoy doing their holiday shopping online

Discussion
Photo: @kayp via Twenty20
Nov 13, 2019
Matthew Stern

Almost everybody shops online during the holidays, but less than half are happy with the experience and it’s a problem that is growing year-over-year, according to a new study.

Sixty percent of shoppers reported being frustrated with the online holiday shopping experience this year, an increase of four percent from last year, according to the annual “Online Shopping Study” released by Pitney Bowes. Dissatisfaction with the online shopping experience has almost doubled from where it was four years ago.

The study also found that the more frequently customers shop online, the more likely they are to be frustrated. Those polled attributed their dissatisfaction to delayed shipping, high shipping costs and inaccurate tracking.

With the rate of online shopping on the rise, retailers and brands may find themselves under increased pressure and operational strain. A truncated holiday selling season could mean more last-minute orders and less breathing room for retailers between Black Friday and Christmas than they usually have.

Nevertheless, the National Retail Federation, Deloitte, AlixPartners and others are forecasting a strong holiday shopping season this year.

This comes after a 2018 holiday season when sales came in below forecasts despite strong national retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Target appearing to have performed quite well. Post-holiday reports ascribed last year’s 2.9 percent gain to concerns over tariffs and anxiety over the performance of the stock market.

Failure to meet online shopping needs can result in serious consequences for offending retailers, according to the Pitney Bowes study. After a bad delivery/returns experience, 90 percent of customers will complain across the various channels — online and offline, public and private. One out of three will never shop with the brand in question again. Most dramatically, 86 percent of customers equated a poor post-purchase customer experience to having a root canal.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think are the most important factors in shoppers’ relatively poor rating of the online holiday shopping experience? What do retailers and consumer-direct brands need to do to mitigate these concerns?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The biggest issues — whether online or in-store — are the quality of execution, the level of customer service, and the relevance of the product. "
"Based on the study, it appears that the displeasure from the experience has nothing to do with the front end but rather on the back end in fulfillment."
"One foolish solution is to go to a store, buy the item and take it home."

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13 Comments on "Study: Consumers don’t enjoy doing their holiday shopping online"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

A lot of holiday shopping is done under pressure and so is less than enjoyable. While it is convenient to access online, issues such as out-of-stocks, delivery and fulfillment problems, and hard to browse sites (especially on mobile) all add to the frustration. That said, a lot of retailers are making improvements with better multichannel services and more holiday ideas and inspiration on their sites.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

Holiday shopping online has become a slog through numerous websites comparing prices, shipping costs, delivery timing, and return policies. What was once an entertaining treasure hunt is now an exercise in logistics and economic analysis. Consumers have brought this on themselves, with online sellers only trying to meet changing demands. The challenge is for online retailers to make shopping more entertaining and easier, and less like a lesson in global trade.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

We have become a society that has come to expect fast and free shipping. This expectation was created out of every day online shopping experiences. Retailers generally can meet that expectations during most of the year. However, during the holiday season, purchases increase dramatically and the systems that worked the rest of the year are not capable of handling the volume.

Up to this point in the purchase process, the item was sold at the price stated — the shipping cost, like it or not, was what it said so no expectations failed to be met. However, when retailers offer online tracking, that is a promise to deliver on a date and one that can easily be monitored. Failing to deliver when promised, early or late, can create problems for the customer. One foolish solution is to go to a store, buy the item and take it home.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Online shopping: functional. In-store shopping: emotional.

Using that as a guideline, online activities simply need to function really, really well, with clarity, speed, ease of use, simplicity, i.e., all the things that define excellent function must dominate. The last thing you want is emotion to creep into function as that emotion will most likely be frustration.

Shikha Jain
BrainTrust

Based on the study, it appears that the displeasure from the experience has nothing to do with the front end but rather on the back end in fulfillment. Some of these issues are self-inflicted as retailers have begun competing on faster shipping times. What this study is showing is that those promises are being under-delivered on. The retailers that will win at the end of this Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be the ones that quickly solve these issues.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Do the surveys uncovering dissatisfaction with online shopping ask the same respondents if they are happy with brick-and-mortar shopping? I’m guessing that there is an even greater dissatisfaction with physical stores, if the pace of store and mall closings is any indication. The biggest issues — whether online or in-store — are the quality of execution, the level of customer service, and the relevance of the product. If a retailer isn’t nailing all three, the customer is likely to be unhappy with the experience.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Knowns and unknowns. If I know exactly what I want to get somebody, online shopping can save some time. If I don’t know (and I often don’t) then the discovery and treasure hunt of brick-and-mortar shopping can actually be fun. Take a deep breath, prepare to troll for a parking space, and actually enjoy the experience of mall shopping, especially for families. It’s not like Santa is going to knock on your front door to ask the kids what they want for Christmas.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Online holiday shopping is tedious at best. Hours and hours of time, searching, hunting, reading reviews, imagining the product in the physical world. Too many choices, too many third-party sellers selling the same item, requiring shoppers to investigate the merchant delivery record in the hope that the gift will arrive on time. In the beginning, online shopping was billed as efficient with vast selections of merchandise. In reality, holiday online shopping is inefficient and overwhelming. UPS expects soaring holiday returns this year; with a peak return day 26 percent higher than 2018. In 2018 online returns reached $207 billion. Conversion remaining at 3 percent means 97 percent of shoppers are not enjoying their shopping experience!

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

What leads to poor ratings for an online shopping experience – whether during the holiday season or not? Here are six factors:

  1. A bad website, for starters — one that isn’t as intuitive as it should be;
  2. Hard-to-find contact information (when a customer wants to reach out to the company, it should be easy to find the number);
  3. Too many unnecessary fields to fill in at check-out;
  4. A bad return policy;
  5. Bad shipping options and fees;
  6. Out-of-inventory items not being clearly marked.
Casey Golden
BrainTrust
24 days 12 hours ago

Holiday gift shopping online changes the experience from a thoughtful experience to an obligatory activity. It changes the entire gift-giving dynamic into swapping Amazon orders. Remember when you’d block out a weekend to go holiday shopping with friends or family, grab lunch and take a break with a warm coffee, chatting in between stores? I miss those memories.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

Consumer expectations evolve over time and it’s interesting that we’ve reached a point where great experiences online are cost of entry. Given how accessible everything else is online (ordering an uber, buying flights, etc.) it’s no wonder consumers want retail to keep pace. I think retail’s biggest miss online is unmet promises: setting a delivery date and then changing it, or saying something is in stock when it’s not. Technology is in a place today where we should be able to keep promises to consumers … and consumers know it.

Kathleen Fischer
Guest

Pleasing the customer after their purchase is just as important as providing the customer the experience they expect when they shop. Customers want to know where their product is and when it will get to them. Unfortunately, retailers are still struggling with order tracking and fulfillment to ensure the product gets to the customer as expected. Retailers need to move from disparate systems to a single commerce platform to alleviate these issues.

Carlos Arambula
BrainTrust

Nothing beats a retailer with well trained and knowledgeable personnel. Not a lower price, not avoiding leaving your couch and the comfort of your laptop/tablet/phone, not home delivery. E-tailers and consumer direct brands need to mimic best-in-class behavior of brick & mortar store if they want to avoid the poor holiday shopping experiences.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The biggest issues — whether online or in-store — are the quality of execution, the level of customer service, and the relevance of the product. "
"Based on the study, it appears that the displeasure from the experience has nothing to do with the front end but rather on the back end in fulfillment."
"One foolish solution is to go to a store, buy the item and take it home."

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