July 17, 2014, 12:26 PM

Shipping fees remain the biggest obstacle to shopping online

But more than a third of younger shoppers would pay more for fast delivery.

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Consumers remain resistant to paying to have online orders delivered to their homes. But 22% would pay more for same-day or overnight delivery, including more than a third of younger adults, according to a new Harris Poll.

Asked about their “biggest online shopping pet peeves,” 66% said shipping costs, far ahead of the next biggest complaint, “getting something that looks nothing like it did online,” cited by 38%. 16% said they resent being added to a retailer’s mailing list after making a purchase, 15% cited having to buy two sizes of an item to make sure one would fit, and 14% complained about returns taking a long time.

The results are based on a Harris Poll survey of 2,241 U.S. adult between June 11 and 16. Of those surveyed, only 9% said they do not shop online.

Asked what would make them more likely to buy online rather than in a store, 81% said free shipping, 70% free returns, 55% the opportunity to return an item to a bricks-and-mortar store and 16% being able to return an item to a store when the retail chain doesn’t have a store in the shopper’s local area.

Despite the general disgruntlement with shipping fees, the survey revealed that a significant minority of consumers would pay more for fast delivery. Asked if they would pay more for overnight or same-day delivery, 22% said yes, including 37% of those classified as “Millennials,” which Harris defines as consumers ages 18 to 36. The willingness to pay more went down with age, as only 20% of “Gen Xers” (37-48) would pay more, 15% of “Baby Boomers” (49-67) and 6% of “Matures” (68 and up).

Among those willing to pay more for same-day delivery, 88% said they would pay $5 or more, 60% $10 or more and 23% $20 or more. On average, those consumers would pay $13.90 for same-day delivery.

Comparable figures for overnight delivery were: 87% $5 or more, 45% $10 or more, 12% $20 or more; $11 was the average those shoppers would pay.

The survey also found that two in 10 of smartphone owners and more than a third of tablet owners have used those devices to shop online. In both cases, such digital content as books, music and movies was the product most purchased, cited by 12% of smartphone owners and 17% of those with tablets.

6% of smartphones owners said they have purchased clothing with their phone, 5% accessories such as handbags and shoes, 5% personal electronics, 4% household electronics, 4% cosmetics, 3% prescription medications and 3% specialty food and beverages (including hard-to-find seasonings and special ingredients), 2% over-the-counter medications and 2% general food purchases. For tablet owners the percentages were 10% clothing, 9% accessories, 7% personal electronics, 5% household electronics, 4% cosmetics, 4% prescription medications, 3% specialty food and beverages, 2% over-the-counter medications and 2% general food purchases.

The survey revealed significant gender gaps on certain questions. 71% of women versus 60% of men complained of shipping costs, and 41% of women versus 34% of mean about items not looking in person like they did online. Men were more concerned about being added to mailing lists, by 23% to 9%.

Women are more likely to have purchased clothing online (75% versus 63%) and accessories (60% to 47%.) Men are more likely to have purchased digital content (62% to 56%) online, personal electronics (55% to 43%) and household electronics (49% to 37%).

Overall, most consumers still prefer to stop in stores rather than online, although the preference varies widely by product category, with 78% preferring to shop for groceries online, the category with the highest preference for in-store buying. 67% prefer stores for buying over-the-counter medications, 65% clothing, 58% prescription medications, 57% cosmetics and grooming products, 57% specialty food and beverages, 55% household electronics, 52% accessories and 43% personal electronics.

Following are the breakdowns by category of consumers who prefer to buy products online, with overall percentage that prefer to buy online, male versus female percentages, and percentages by age group (Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Matures):

  • Personal electronics: 22%, 24% vs. 20%, 27%, 23%, 20%, 13%
  • Household electronics: 16%, 18% vs. 14%, 20%, 17%, 16%, 8%
  • Intimate items (such as lingerie, erotica): 15%, 15% vs. 14%, 18%, 17%, 13%, 10%
  • Accessories: 15%, 14% vs. 15%, 18%, 16%, 14%, 5%
  • Clothing: 13%, 12% vs. 14%, 16%, 14%, 13%, 9%
  • Prescription medications: 13%, 14% vs. 12%, 7%, 9%, 16%, 26%
  • Cosmetics and personal grooming products: 12%, 10% vs. 13%, 16%, 14%, 9%, 3%
  • Specialty food and beverages: 10%, 8% vs. 12%, 9%, 11%, 11%, 9%
  • Over-the-counter medications: 7%, 7% vs. 6%, 8%, 9%, 5%, 4%
  • General food purchases: 5%, 5% vs. 6%, 8%, 6%, 3%, 2%
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