Mid-term report cards

Halfway to peak 2021 and amid pandemic recovery, we asked consumers to grade their online order experiences by retail category.

Back in January (which feels like years ago, tbh) we asked consumers to grade retailers on their online order experiences over the holidays. Overall, we found that consumers were grading on a curve—the lowest average score was a B+, and that grade was shared across nearly half our list of retail categories. We attributed this to the unprecedented shift to online shopping last peak, and the empathy consumers seemed to show for retailers and carriers dealing with the change. 

So now, about 6 months later (and about 6 months ahead of the next holiday peak), we posed the question again. How did retailers fare this time around?

  • Let’s first look at ecommerce utilization rates between January and now—how popular is online shopping, now that more than half of consumers are vaccinated?
    • Across January, an average of 55% of consumers said that they were shopping online more often than before the pandemic.
    • Over the course of May, the average has dropped to 47%, a 7pp decrease. That’s still a lot of consumers shopping online more than pre-COVID—but it is the longest sustained drop below 50% we’ve seen since we started tracking in late August.
  • Is the increasing number of vaccinated consumers behind this drop? Or perhaps it’s the CDC’s recent guidance that masks need no longer be worn in most settings, especially among those who are vaccinated?
    • Overall, 22% of consumers say they are going to shop in-store more often, while 17% are going to shop online more often, now that mask mandates are beginning to lift. That said, only 9% say they are going to shop either in-store or online less.
    • What’s driving this divergence is the attitudes of those who are vaccinated versus those who are not. 
      • Those who are planning to take a COVID-19 vaccine (about 12% of consumers) are significantly less likely (12% less, compared to 8% of others) to be shopping in-store moving forward
      • They’re also significantly more likely (33% vs 16% others) to be shopping online more often
      • Those who are undecided about taking the vaccine are second-most likely to be shopping online more often (19%)
      • Meanwhile, the behaviors of those who have already received at least one shot (57% of adults) seems to be aligned with those who are not planning (21% of adults) to get the vaccine, with minimal difference in responses.
  • Given this slight reversion to pre-pandemic shopping behaviors, we expected consumer expectations to rise slightly—and empathy with retailers to suffer a bit. And that’s exactly what we found.
  • We asked consumers to grade retailers based on their recent online shopping experiences (specific to ordering and tracking to delivery and returns).
    • Amazon continues to lead the pack with the only ‘A’ on the list
    • Those slightly lower grades (from A- to B+) included department stores, locally owned businesses, Target and Walmart.
    • Thanks to the limited re-emergence of in-store shopping, some shoppers dinged online-only DTC brands, resulting in a new score of ‘B- ‘from the previous score of ‘B+’
  • Also interesting were the proportion of consumers who could not recall making a recent purchase from each category, an indicator of market penetration (and headroom if you’re the glass-half-full-type):
    • Only 10% say they’ve not shopped Amazon recently
    • 29% haven’t shopped Walmart recently online
    • 43% Online-only DTC
    • 46% Target
    • 51% locally owned businesses (online)
    • 53% warehouse club stores
    • 53% department stores
    • 55% small businesses (online – not local)
    • 56% online marketplaces
    • 71% big box specialty stores
  • The last one—big box stores—is especially surprising given the recent blockbuster earnings reports coming from many of those players. This either implies that fewer consumers are making larger purchases at these stores…or consumers don’t really think of these retailers as a category (even though our survey provided examples like Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and ULTA). 
mid term report card

BOXpoll™ 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 May 2021.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

Get the BOXpoll inside scoop
Pitney Bowes is surveying consumers on a wide variety of ecommerce topics each and every week, and publishing the best of our findings on pb.com every month.
Loading form content…