STUDY: How cost pressure impacts Post-Purchase service of e-commerce top 100 in Germany

October 31, 2023 by
Frank Calviño

By Salesupply - Salesupply has recently released a study regarding how the cost pressure impacts Post-Purchase service of e-commerce in Germany.  

The survey has yielded some really interesting results such as: 

  • Unconditional free shipping is nearly extinct:
    • 50% charges shipping cost under a minimum order value, 45% always charges cost   
    • Shipping cost between €4.00 to €5.99 are common 
  • Nearly 90% of top 100 etailers in Germany still offer free ecommerce returns 
  • Average delivery time in Germany is 2.7 working days   
  • 31% of top retailers is not available for customer questions on weekends  
  • Customers wait 2:33 minutes in the telephone queue and 34 hours for an email response   

These results are part of the  ‘German Post-Purchase study 2023’, a complete post-purchase benchmark of the top 100 largest online stores of Germany. The study, executed by post-purchase software provider parcelLab, and ecommerce customer care and - fulfillment specialist Salesupply tested the entire post-purchase process of the 100 largest etailers in Germany from checkout and shipping communication all the way to customer service and returns.    

Shipping cost: sacrificing sacred cows 

Fewer and fewer of the 100 largest online retailers in Germany are offering their customers unconditional free shipping. According to the study, only 6 percent of all major German online retailers still offer free shipping, regardless of the size of the shopping basket. 46 percent of etailers offer free shipping over a certain minimum order value. And 45 percent of the 100 major online stores in Germany generally charge shipping fees. 

A comparison with 2020 shows that the proportion of retailers who generally charge their customers shipping costs has risen sharply - from 36 percent then to 45 percent now. At the same time, the proportion of retailers that generally deliver free of shipping costs has fallen from 14 to 6 percent. Even Zalando now charges €5.90 for shipping if the order value is less than €29.90 (and buyers are not members of Zalando's paid customer loyalty program.)    

Shipping fees and minimum order value 

When it comes to the level of shipping costs, the picture is comparatively homogeneous. Almost 60 percent of retailers charge between €4 and €5.99. The minimum order value for free shipping, on the other hand, is set completely differently by the top 100 online retailers. Just under a third of the retailers who work with minimum order values, draw the line at a minimum of €29.99, one in four retailers offers free shipping from €59.99 and another 25 percent sets the threshold at €60 or higher. 

Download the complete 

Post-Purchase study Germany 2023 here 

Almost 90 percent of major German online stores offer free returns  

Contrary to paid shipping, etailers in Germany continue to be generous when it comes to return costs. 87 percent of the major online stores in Germany allow their customers to return unwanted products free of charge. Two retailers charge a proportional service fee for returns. And seven of the top 100 stores let their customers pay the return costs entirely out of their own pockets.  

When it comes to returns processing, it has been observed for years that the returns label, which is so convenient for customers, is found less and less often directly in the package. Only around one in four retailers makes it so easy for customers to return goods. Instead, consumers have to register their return in the online store and then either receive their label directly for printing out or displayed as a QR code, or it is sent to them by e-mail.  

"Given the economic situation in online retailing and the increasingly tough battle for profitability, it did surprise us that the major German online retailers still predominantly bear the return costs themselves instead of passing them on to their customers," comments parcelLab co-founder Anton Eder on the study results. "This makes it all the more important to make returns processing on the retailer side as efficient as possible. Returns portals are a good approach for this, but only a few retailers fully exploit the potential."  

Customer service unavailable at peak shopping moments! 

The fact that customer service has the potential to function as a profit center and is not just a cost center has apparently not yet reached some of the largest online retailers in Germany. The Post-Purchase Study by parcelLab and Salesupply shows: More than one in ten of the 100 largest online retailers in Germany can only be reached by their customers during office hours on weekdays. The same applies to the weekend. Here too, one third of the online stores are not available for customer contact until Monday.  

According to Salesupply co-founder Henning Heesen, the accessibility of online retailers is a point that should be improved: "For retailers, it is a missed opportunity when customers in need of advice or support face closed doors," he says. "The main online shopping time in Germany is currently between 8 and 9 pm. If you can't be reached then, you'll lose prospective customers to competitors whose customer service teams are available at that peak shopping time." 

Need a quick answer? Pick up the phone 

Measuring customer service response times on the various channels shows: If you're in a hurry, you should pick up the phone. Almost half of the online stores tested managed to answer customer calls in less than 75 seconds. The average response time is 2:33 minutes. E-mail inquiries to customer service were answered after 34 hours on average. A quarter of the major retailers in the test were way faster and sent an e-mail response within an hour. Social media shows similar results. Here, two retailers responded to the testers' inquiries in less than ten minutes, and one retailer within an hour. At two retailers, the social media queries remained completely unanswered. 

More than one in four major online retailers in Germany now also offer their customers the option of using a chat for specific queries. As a rule, a bot first requests the relevant basic information, after which a human takes over the communication and addresses the customer's concern. 

Download the complete 

Post-Purchase study Germany 2023 here 

Methodology 

For the 2023 Post-Purchase study, the parcelLab team placed a test order with each of the listed retailers in June and July 2023. As far as possible, shopping carts were generated in the stores with which delivery was free of charge. Since receipt of the parcels was guaranteed at all times, delivery was successful in almost all cases on the first attempt. 

In addition, Salesupply's customer care experts researched all available customer service channels in the online stores of the top 100 online stores, as well as the opening hours offered by the customer service team. Furthermore, inquiries were made via all available channels of the retailers and the response times were analyzed.

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