Online shoppers are feeling frustrated. Blame it on the ‘Amazon effect’?

United States

While many consumers now do a large portion of their shopping online, the era of digital commerce is also becoming the era of digital disappointment, according to a new survey.

The survey, from automation platform Celigo, found that 88% of U.S. shoppers and 79% of United Kingdom shoppers reported having at least one instance of an online retailer failing to meet expectations in the past year. Key concerns among shoppers: higher prices, late deliveries and high shipping costs, according to the survey, which reflected the experiences of more than 1,500 consumers.

For some shoppers, the frustrations are piling up. The survey noted that 48% of consumers cited having one to three disappointing shopping experiences in the past year, but 25% pointed to four to nine such experiences. And 11% said they were disappointed 10 times or more.

The takeaway is clear, said Mark Simon, Celigo’s vice president of strategy: Shoppers expect more than they’re getting, especially in terms of customer support.

“They want a higher-touch shopping experience,” he told MarketWatch.

Online shopping has become a retail behemoth. U.S. e-commerce sales totaled $ 1.1 trillion in 2023, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, an increase of 7.6% over the prior year. E-commerce now accounts for 15.4% of total retail sales, the Census Bureau noted.

Celigo’s Simon and other retail experts say the frustrations that consumers are feeling may be stemming from what could be called the “Amazon effect.” That is, shoppers have become so accustomed to the Amazon AMZN, +0.03% experience, with such perks as free, quick shipping for Prime members, that they expect the same from all e-commerce sites.

But consumers can avoid some problems if they shop more carefully, experts say.

Among the key tips they offer is to vet any online retailers by seeing if and how they’re rated on review platforms, or by the Better Business Bureau. Shoppers should also make sure the retailer has a secure online site. The BBB itself says: “Look for the ‘https://’ URL structure in the company’s web address, as well as the padlock symbol in the address bar.”

Andrea Woroch, a budgeting guru, advises shoppers to avoid going to small retailers often found through social-media sites. Many of those boutique outfits “won’t offer refunds, but rather store credit, and unless you shop there often, you may forget about the store credit,” she said.

Trae Bodge, another shopping expert, seconds that idea. But Bodge also notes that consumers are sometimes best served skipping online retailers altogether and heading to a brick-and-mortar store, especially if they’re buying clothes.

 “If you’re not 100% sure about an item, go to the store and see it and feel it,” she said.