Merchants have reduced the availability of some online shopping features for customers this year — particularly free shipping — and this left some consumers completing their purchases with a less satisfactory experience. 

As a result, there’s been a slight overall decrease of 1.1% in PYMNTS’ Merchant Index scores, according to Consumer Choice at the Checkout, a PYMNTS and collaboration that draws on a survey of 2,139 U.S. consumers. These dipped from 59.5 in the first quarter of the year to 58.9 in the second quarter. 

See the study: Consumer Choice at the Checkout: How Online Shopping Experiences Build Customer Loyalty

Free shipping is important to consumers. The top four convenience features that online shoppers are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with are the ability to mark that the mailing address matches the billing address, free shipping, online address confirmation and notification of a product’s availability. The top security features they are satisfied with include the presence of security logos during the checkout process, and merchants’ offers of guarantees and refunds. 

Overall, PYMNTS found, customer satisfaction is boosted by checkout factors that give consumers more control over their shopping experiences by simplifying the checkout process and reducing friction. 

However, merchants may have weakened customer satisfaction by scaling back the availability of some features in the first half of 2021. Fewer merchants are providing free shipping and address confirmation now than in the fourth quarter of last year. The percentage of merchants offering an inventory status feature is higher than it was at the end of 2020, but lower than the first quarter of 2021.  

These changes to merchants’ checkout features coincided with the decline in Merchant Index scores. 

To offset the lack of availability of free shipping, online merchants have increased the availability of guarantees and refunds, as well as features that quickly add selected items to the shopping cart. 



About: It’s almost go time for the holiday shopping season, and nearly 90% of U.S. consumers plan to make at least some of their purchases online — 13% more than did in 2020. The 2021 Holiday Shopping Outlook, PYMNTS surveyed more than 3,600 consumers to learn what is driving online sales this holiday season and the impact of product availability and personalized rewards on merchant preference.

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