Slow your roll

Fast delivery isn’t as fast as you might think — and might not be worth as much as it recently was.

We asked consumers last October about how the pandemic — and the resulting tsunami of packages arriving at their doors — had changed their perceptions of “fast” and “slow” delivery. Now, 6 months later with the holiday peak in the rear-view mirror and the specter of mass COVID immunization on the horizon, we decided to check back on consumer perceptions of delivery speed.

The answers were surprising, to say the least. Consumers now consider general online purchases delivered within 3.1 days to be “fast”, and anything delivered after 5.7 days to be “slow”. Here’s what consumers told us about their expectations when ordering specific products:

data on fast delivery

Who taught them patience?

  • Gen Z is surprisingly the most forgiving when it comes to delivery expectations:  Across categories, Gen Z considers 3.6 days to be fast compared to 3.0 – 3.2 days among older groups.
  • While this might not come as a shock for a category like Home/Garden (Gen Z: 4.5 days; vs. 3.6 – 3.9 days for others), it is surprising when talking about products often ordered more urgently, like Apparel (Gen Z: 4 days vs. others 3.1 – 3.4 days) and Entertainment (Gen Z: 3.9 days vs. others 3.0 – 3.5 days).

How much is fast worth?

  • Interestingly, given Gen Z appears to be the most patient generation, they place one of the highest premiums on speed — outranked only by Millennials in every product category.
  • Averaged across all product categories, here’s how much each age group is willing to pay for what they defined as “fast” shipping (if they needed something delivered fast, that is):
    • Millennials: $13.12
    • Gen Z: $10.86
    • Adults overall: $7.68
    • Gen X: $6.63
    • Baby Boomers: $2.99
  • Although our questions were framed a bit differently last time we surveyed on this topic, this premium represents a significant decrease from the responses we received back in October, meaning fast delivery may not currently be carrying the premium it carried at the height of the pandemic.

Keeping promises is more important than being fast.

More than half of consumers believe:

  • An accurate estimate delivery date is more important than fast shipping, a sentiment shared across age groups. 
  • A delivery estimate shown as a range of calendar dates (‘e.g. “Between May 25 -– 27”) is better than a range of days (e.g., ‘In 2 -– 4 days’), also consistent across age groups.
  • An accurate delivery date is more important than a guaranteed delivery date (even if that guarantee means the shipping cost is refunded on late delivery).
  • A narrow range of days/dates (e.g., ‘delivered in 2 -– 3 days’) is the best way to present estimated delivery timeframes for most consumers.
    • Half of consumers prefer a narrower range of days (e.g., ‘Delivered in 2 -– 3 days’) is preferred to a wider range (e.g., ‘Delivered in 2 -– 5 days’), even if it’s less accurate. 
      • Especially for Millennials (55%) & Gen X (56%) vs. Gen Z (38%) and Baby Boomers (48%)
    • However, a range of days or dates is better than providing a specific day/date that may or may not be accurate.

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 April 2021.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.