Websites edge mobile, free shipping trumps overnight for online shoppers: study

Publish Date: 
Jun 12, 2014

RESTON, Va. and ATLANTA, Ga. - Shoppers want retailers to make it easier to purchase goods and services. Consumers also want websites and stores to work better together. They also prefer to evaluate and purchase products from their desktops rather than their mobile devices, and when it comes to shipping and returns, "free" is a driving factor to complete the sale.

So says a research report, "UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper," coordinated by UPS and comScore Inc.

Free shipping vs. faster delivery. 83 percent of respondents said they would be willing to wait an additional two days if the shipping is free.

ComScore asked 5,800 consumers about their online shopping experiences. Respondents said they want more options in searching for items, checking out, enhanced security and alternate delivery locations.

Websites still trump mobile. While smartphones play a big role in the online experience, user interfaces have some catching up to do to win over consumers. Online shoppers who use multiple devices said they would prefer to shop on a desktop computer over mobile because larger and clearer images help them comparison shop. Therefore, it's no surprise that when shopping on mobile devices, 41 percent of respondents said they prefer a retailer's full website vs. a mobile website (34 percent) or mobile app (25 percent).  

Social media influences sales. While retailers have had a hard time connecting social media to sales, the study shows that social media does have an impact, as one-third of all shoppers and one-half of millennial shoppers said purchase decisions are influenced by social media. Consumers also are likely to share their opinions on product and brands on social media. Satisfied shoppers who share their thoughts via social media are most likely to post on Facebook (86 percent) followed by Twitter (34 percent), Google+ (23 percent), Pinterest (21 percent) and Instagram (19 percent).

Cross-channel convenience drives brand loyalty. The demand for cross-channel convenience is becoming more prevalent for the savvy shopper. In fact, 40 percent of purchases are made crossing channels, whether searching in the store and purchasing online, or vice versa. "The retailers who embrace the various channels and options that customers favor will deliver a positive customer experience and ultimately drive sales and brand loyalty," said Susan Engleson, senior director at comScore.

Shoppers prefer free shipping over faster delivery. Free shipping continues to drive purchasing decisions: 58 percent of respondents said the have added items to their shopping carts to qualify for free shipping and 83 percent are willing to wait an additional two days for delivery if shipping is free. More than one-half of online shoppers said they want to see the total purchase cost early in the checkout process, and the majority prefer seeing the expected arrival date rather than the number of days it will take for the product to arrive.

Consumers expect free returns. More than 80 percent said free return shipping would compel them to make the purchase -- and they'd like to get the return label in the shipping box, too.

While consumers prefer most of their packages delivered to their home (74 percent), there is a growing trend for alternate delivery options. Only about 43 percent of shoppers responding to the survey said they were satisfied with the flexibility of changing delivery days or rerouting packages. 

"Consumers demand more from their package delivery experience, and today's online shopper expects us to respond by creating solutions convenient for them," said Derrick Johnson, UPS vice president of global segments.

Return policies affect purchase decisions. Consumers now expect free returns with 82 percent of respondents saying they would complete the purchase if they could return the item to a store or have free return shipping, and 66 percent indicating they view a retailer's returns policy before making a purchase. The majority of shoppers want retailers to make it easy for them to return a purchase by including a label in the box.

Since 2012, return volumes have grown, according to Jennifer Barabas, account executive for MSL Group, a PR firm representing the two firms. In the current survey, 62 percent said they have returned and/or exchanged an item bought online, vs. 51 percent of respondents two years ago. Online shopping cart abandonment increased in the last year, with 90 percent of respondents this year acknowledging they have abandoned an online shopping cart, vs. 88 percent in 2013.

The study is based on a survey administered by comScore of more than 5,800 U.S. online shoppers and evaluates their habits from pre-purchase to post-delivery. ComScore specializes in digital measurement and analytics, delivering insights on web, mobile and TV consumer behavior. To view the study, click HERE. For more information, visit

From a press release