March 22, 2004, 12:00 AM

E-retailers turn to cheaper shipping, but delivery doesn’t suffer

While a third more retailers in The E-tailing Group’s mystery shopper survey shipped via lower cost USPS option this year vs. last, average delivery time remained the same at 4.4 days.

Order delivery times have not deteriorated in the past year even though online retailers are shifting to lower cost shipping, reports Chicago-based consultants The E-tailing Group Inc. The average time to receive a package from 100 sites that E-tailing Group researchers mystery-shopped was 4.4 days, exactly the same as the prior year.

At the same time, the number of retailers shipping via U.S. Postal Service ground rose by a third, from 33% of retailers in the survey to 45%. Only 3% used the Postal Service’s priority mail option vs. 10% a year ago. "The trend toward lower cost shipping methods will continue," says Lauren Freedman, president of The E-tailing Group. "People are looking for all the cost cutting they can find."

The E-tailing Group’s survey reports that 48% of all packages came via some form of USPS vs. 43% last year; 34% via UPS vs. 38% a year ago; 13% via FedEx vs. 15%; and 5% other vs. 4%.

Accuracy was good, Freedman says, although three retailers never delivered the products ordered and six had the product that was ordered on back-order.

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