Shipping Out

No one likes shipping and handling charges. But when buying a sofa from the local department store, one might be inclined to accept the S&H charge as a necessary evil. Well, not so in the online world, where research shows that 63 percent of consumers say shipping and handling charges have deterred them from buying something on the Web. According to a new report from Jupiter Media Metrix, what seems to be at issue is not the presence of S&H charges but the way e-tailers are using them.

A majority of Web retailers, reports the New York-based research company, base their charges for shipping and handling on the size of an online purchase–meaning its price or quantity–which is a big no-no. Analysts at JMM advise that retailers base their S&H charges on the weight of an order, not its size.

–45 percent of consumers want shipping and handling charges based on weight, not price or quantity of an order; yet, only 10 percent of online retailers offer this S&H model.

–It would behoove e-tailers to get their acts together regarding S&H charges. According to a separate JMM report, the same percentage of consumers who report dissatisfaction with the current system of shipping and handling charges–63 percent–are expected to make retail purchases online by 2006. The key word here is “expected.” Prolonged dissatisfaction with current rate charge models has a funny way of changing forecasts.