This article is part of CMO.com’s November series about commerce and consumerism. Click here for more.
If the past two years are any indication, the pressure is on for retailers to improve their online shopping experience, according to the 2017 Pitney Bowes Global Ecommerce Study.
The study–based on a survey of 1,200 retailers from eight countries and 12,000 consumers from 12 global markets–paints a picture of a retail landscape not always meeting consumer expectations, particularly when it comes to the post-purchase experience. In addition, retailers are dealing with more experienced shoppers, who are more demanding, shop more frequently, and make purchases globally.
“There’s so much frustration about holiday shopping,” said Lila Snyder, Pitney Bowes’ EVP and president of global ecommerce, in an exclusive interview with CMO.com. “Almost half of consumers surveyed told us that they had issues last holiday season with their e-commerce shopping.”
Those issues included shipping, returns, receiving the wrong product, or that the product got lost and never arrived. "Basically, something went wrong in the experience of receiving whatever it is that they ordered," Snyder explained. "And that number, that 47% who told us their online shopping experience during the holidays last year was frustrating, is up pretty significantly from what we saw the year before."
Indeed, the number of unhappy online holiday shoppers rose six percentage points (41% to 47%) over the previous year and increased year-over-year (YoY) in every single one of the major markets surveyed. Shoppers in Asia Pacific–in particular, India (73%), Hong Kong (69%), China (64%), and South Korea (58%)–reported the most challenges. In the U.S., 36% of online shoppers experienced problems, up five percentage points from the previous year.
That’s a shame, according to Snyder, who pointed out that more than one-third of global consumers make online purchases at least once per week. The report also found that online shoppers are using a wider range of options for shipping, collecting, or returning their items. They include buy online and pick up in-store, shipping to locations other than the buyer’s home, returning purchases in-store, and returning purchases using prepaid shipping labels. In fact, buy online and pick up in-store is now common practice for 40% of global online shoppers, up from 28% the previous year. In the U.S. alone, this option is exercised by 46% of online shoppers versus 27% in the previous year.
Another interesting finding: Consumers prefer free shipping with longer delivery times (75%) over paying for expedited parcel shipments (25%).
According to Pitney Bowes, online shoppers increasingly prefer online marketplaces, such as Amazon, eBay, and Flipkart, over retailer websites. In fact, 67% of online shoppers turn to marketplaces to search for products versus using search engines (46%), retail websites (40%), social media (24%), and mobile apps (23%).
“These findings point to a need for retailers to be thinking about the consumer experience end to end, encompassing the post-purchase experience and making sure that that lives up to the brand promise,” Snyder said. “I think another important implication is around the opportunities of opening up your ‘doors,’ if you will, to new consumers around the world.”
The study also found that 70% of online shoppers have made a cross-border purchase. Asia Pacific saw the biggest YoY increases, led by India, China, and South Korea. What’s more, 62% of retailers have a cross-border e-commerce business today, while the vast majority of retailers don’t plan to in the next 12 months.