When faster isn’t actually better

Accuracy continues to win out over speed for estimated delivery dates—even with early deliveries

A thorn in the side of party hosts everywhere: guests who show up early.

(Yes, Wayne and Jane, we’re excited to see you, but the evite said 7:00pm, and showing up at 6:00 means I need to entertain you while setting out hors d’oeuvres, getting dinner in the oven, and realizing we don’t have enough ice.)

A surprising thorn in the side of most online shoppers: packages arriving earlier than expected, according to our most recent BOXpoll surveys.

We know from previous surveys that an accurate estimated delivery date (EDD) is more important than fast shipping, but it turns out that for more than half of consumers, an ‘accurate’ EDD means both “no later than” and also “no earlier than.”

To 59% of all shoppers—and almost two-thirds of Gen Z and Millennials (who clearly have other places to be)—early deliveries are an inconvenience. The top two reasons? Not being home on the day of delivery, and not being comfortable having deliveries sit out.

Gen Z and Millennials, who are most likely to live in apartments or other locations hostile to unattended packages, are more likely than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts to be annoyed by early deliveries.

Don’t make me pick up that phone

While early deliveries are an annoyance for more than half, no consumer (to our knowledge) has gone out of their way to call a retailer about it. Meanwhile, 90% of shoppers say they will contact customer care if their online order doesn’t arrive on the date promised but will give an average grace period of 3 days before doing so. Gen Zers are either the most patient, or the most loathe to pick up the phone or draft an email (potayto, potahto), waiting about 5 days and being twice as likely as the average consumer not to contact the retailer at all. We found in previous BOXpoll surveys retailers can slash the number of calls to customer care by providing a revised EDD when a package is running late.


Nobody knows what day it is

Accurate delivery dates are important, but not all EDDs are created equal.

It’s not surprising consumers would prefer a more precise EDD, but what we found most interesting was the aversion to mental calendar math. “2 days” beat out “February 24” by a little, and “Thursday” by a lot—especially surprising since Amazon uses days of the week (“FREE delivery tomorrow”; “get it by this Thursday”) if the EDD is less than a week, and specific dates for delivery further out. “Estimated business days”—which fewer retailers use but is certainly more precise than a non-specific count of days—didn’t get much love in our surveys. (We suspect “number of sleeps” might poll better.)

Let’s ask BOXscore how retailers measure up

In case you didn’t know, BOXpoll is one member of a larger family. BOXscore, another part of our BOXtools insights platform, uses crowdsourced mystery shopping of thousands of websites to compile benchmarks on the ecommerce order experience from brands in 15 industry segments. This year, we’ll be introducing more highlights from our BOXscore data as part of our regular reporting here.

According to our BOXscore research, while there isn’t a majority of ecommerce brands using any single EDD format, the largest proportion (39%) align with consumers’ top preference: estimated days. (Though note, our analysis rolls up both “non-specific” day EDDs and “business day” EDDs under a common category at present). Note that more than a quarter of mass merchandise, auto parts, and office supply retailers use less-popular estimated dates when quoting EDDs; and more than a third of personal care/beauty brands—and nearly a third of retailers overall—use day ranges due to variable fulfillment and delivery service levels or limitations in technology.

BOXpollTM by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture,and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult //2094 US consumers surveyed February 2022.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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