With the COVID-19 pandemic redefining how eCommerce shoppers want to and are able to shop, 2020 had a monumental impact on consumer expectations. In previous years, we’ve seen a gradual shortening of expected wait times, but in 2020 the average time a consumer was willing to wait grew from 5 days to 8 days. However, with the newly lowered expectations regarding shipping time, shoppers also grew their expectations when it came to communication and updates regarding the shipping delays.

What has changed compared to previous years?

Fast and Free shipping services became less vital than in previous years

Fast shipping is still important, but it’s not as integral as it was back in 2019. 63% of buyers say that fast shipping is required for them to have a positive shipping experience -this is down from 72%. 66% of buyers say that free shipping is required – which is down from 76%.

Returns are a must-have

With the option of in-store returns gone, due to the closing of physical shops, online merchants are seeing the brunt of returned goods. 54% of the participants in the survey say that a retailer’s overall return policy is a major consideration when purchasing online. 85% expect returns to be self-service. Consumers increasingly want to avoid contacting customer support to initiate the returns process.

Online retailers are mostly held responsible for shipping errors

During these times, customers are largely more forgiving of shipping delays than in previous years, but they still think that it is the responsibility of the merchant to make sure that the products get delivered on time and in good condition. In fact, over 70% of consumers say that a negative delivery or shipping experience negatively impacts their impression of the retailer rather than the carrier – even if it’s a result of the carrier’s error.

How can you deliver a better shipping experience?

Learning about these statistics is one thing, but learning what to do with the data is another. In this blog post, we are going to go through a couple of details that can help improve the sipping experience and meet customer expectations.

Provide multiple shipping options

Free shipping

We know it’s not possible to offer free shipping on all items, but offering it for small items with low shipping costs can increase cart conversions. Typically, these are slower services that involve incorporating shipping costs into the item cost.

Flat-rate shipping

Unless you sell items that are greatly varying in size and weight, domestic shipments don’t usually fluctuate too much from one shipment to the other – that’s why it’s recommended to use shipping promotions such as “£5 Shipping on any domestic order”.

Express Shipping option

express delivery - what do customers think about shippingThere are many customers that want to receive their orders as soon as possible and they are willing to pay premium fees for extra-fast shipping. Faster shipping options may be expensive, but when it comes to time-sensitive packages, some customers are willing to pay the price. It can be the difference between an abandoned cart or a high-price purchase.


Notifications about tracking information

Emailing or texting tracking links has several important roles within the shipping process. First, it process that the shipment is in the carrier’s hands and cuts down on order status requests. It also allows customers to see where their order is and when it should arrive. Offering a text option can eliminate email concerns.

Notifications about shipping delays

If you receive notice from the carrier about a change in the delivery date, tell the customer. This helps rule out surprises and customer complaints.

Shipment method upgrades

Upgrading shipping methods to make up for warehouse or pickup delays can go a long way, especially if the customer doesn’t request it.

Offer hassle-free returns

returnsCustomers like hassle-free returns, they like to initiate the returns in the same way that orders are placed. Make the process easier by offering automated returns through the return portals on your website or include a pre-printed pay-on-use return label with the outgoing package. Building a streamlined process like this elevates your brand above the competition and aligns you with eCommerce giants like Amazon. Offering free returns is certainly not something retailers welcome, but these types of returns are less time-sensitive, so they can be more affordable than outgoing packages.

Final thoughts

A lot has changed in 2020 and there are more changes to come in 2021, as the vaccine gets distributed, and more and more people return to their workplaces, expectations regarding shipping will grow, customers will want better services and more shipping options. That’s why it is important for online retailers to keep up with these growing expectations and try to stay one step ahead of the trends when it comes to shipping and returns.