Report card time: how did consumers grade peak season?

Consistently more than half of consumers shopped online each week through peak. While 1 in 4 experienced delivery delays, most seem to have graded retailers on a curve.

Pencils down. Another (albeit bananas) peak season is in the books. Time to retrospect.

We generally look at volumes (which were certainly unprecedented) to gauge the size and scale of peak. But given we all know the volumes were historic, we started with a look into ecommerce penetration from our BOXpoll surveys running early November through the end of December.

We found that the proportion of consumers shopping online didn’t change much week over week, which means that potentially the same consumers were doing most of the shopping over the holidays. And with more than one-third of consumers telling us, as of the end of the year, that their income is now lower than before the pandemic—this lack of penetration growth seems consistent.

For these consumers who were consistently and regularly buying online each week throughout peak holiday season, we wanted to know how important each step of the order experience had become to them.

  • Interestingly, the unboxing experience ranked highest in importance—implying that presentation of the product was a critical factor because so many of these purchases were meant as gifts that would be shipped directly to recipients (instead of being delivered in-person in—ahem—a normal year).
  • Delivery experience was the second most important, followed by checkout experience.


When consumers were asked to evaluate order/delivery/returns experiences each week, nearly half (49%) reported they had an issue—which is in fact a decrease of 11 points over the past two years, further indicating the consumers have become inured to order experience issues. The top 5 problems this year:

  • Delivery was late - 24% 
  • Delivery tracking was inaccurate - 13% 
  • Free shipping was unavailable when checking out - 12%
  • Delivery tracking was difficult to use - 10% 
  • Fast shipping was unavailable when checking out - 10%


  • The good news is that the purchase experiences considered most important to consumers were also among the ones that they had the least problems with:
    • Top 3 most important:  Correct items shipped (80%); package not damaged (80%); items well packaged (68%) 
    • Least likely to have problems include:  Incorrect item shipped (5%); package damaged (6%); item not well packaged (5%)

Report card time: luckily, consumers may be grading on a curve

  • Consumers reported that an average of 75% of deliveries that they expected to arrive by Christmas or on a certain date did, in fact, arrive as promised.  
  • Given so much coverage and discussion of shipping delays this peak, we were admittedly relieved to see that consumers were actually giving retailers the benefit of the doubt. We swear, our survey included options to grade retailers below a B+, but very few consumers opted to do so.
  • This seems to imply that either (1) consumers were wholly swept up in the spirit of the holidays and felt guilty about complaining, or (2) consumers—who we know love to complain—actually felt that retailers and their partners were doing their best in a tough situation.
2020 holiday peak report card

After seeing these grades, we naturally asked for a parent-shopper conference. Looking to share examples of what constituted above and beyond—and the surprisingly high marks you see above—we asked consumers to tell us about great delivery or returns experiences they had this holiday. Here are some examples of what we heard:

Examples of retailers going above and beyond

Enjoy it while it lasts, retailers. Consumers may have given us all the best possible holiday gift: empathy.

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 December 2020.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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