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What an anime classic can teach e-tailers about their business

Racecar above checkered flag

Speed Racer’s Mach 5 car was fast on the track. But the Japanese cartoon hero knew that punching the accelerator didn’t solve every challenge, every time. It is a lesson e-commerce companies should consider, according to the 2019 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study.

In the race to delight consumers and win their loyalty, super-fast delivery is just one part of the equation, the study shows. Consumers expect upfront transparency on fees, clearly stated return policies and rewards for their loyalty.

So, to win in the e-commerce delivery race, put your customers in the driver’s seat and let them take the wheel.

“To win in the e-commerce delivery race, put your customers in the driver’s seat and let them take the wheel.”

More than just speed

Speed Racer, the Japanese cartoon that first aired on U.S. television in the 1960s and then reappeared in the 1990s on MTV, followed the adventures of a young driver on the professional racing circuit who crossed paths each week with nasty crooks.

Naturally, Speed Racer always outsmarted the bad guys and his car, the Mach 5, always crossed the finish line in first place. But the Mach 5 was not a one-trick road rocket. The vehicle was equipped with gadgets activated by push buttons on the steering wheel that allowed Speed Racer to foil the bad guys time after time.

I thought about Speed Racer as we put the finishing touches on the 2019 Pulse study, our newly released deep dive into the mindset of e-commerce consumers. Since we started publishing the study in 2012, Pulse has provided merchants interested in online retailing with visibility into the changing behaviors and expectations of shoppers.

 For more information or to download the full 2019 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper research report, visit

New insights

This year’s study did not disappoint in the insights department. As you know, the race by the e-commerce market’s biggest players toward ever-faster shipping has put enormous pressure on others in the industry.

Yet this year’s Pulse study suggests that retailers – like Speed Racer – can use some other options at their fingertips as they vie to win the competition for online shoppers. That’s because the survey shows that when a product need isn’t urgent, consumers value other options or incentives in addition to speed.

The UPS study also shows that while shoppers still want choice, control and convenience, they increasingly desire emotional rewards, personal connections and experiences when they go online. Smaller retailers could better deliver in those areas if they’re closer to their customers.

Consumers aren’t saying they want a relationship with every brand and retailer. But if you can build a bond with your customers meaningful enough for them to talk about, it can be powerful in growing your business – and more important than one-size-fits-all delivery.

Finger pushing button

Among the other key findings in this year’s study:

1. Transparency is key.

Online shoppers want clear product details, and they dislike surprise fees or timelines. Customers report abandoning a cart due to higher-than-expected delivery costs (41 percent), out-of-stock items (28 percent) and an inability to use their preferred method of payment (20 percent).

2. Returns matter.

Returns remain influential to online shoppers, with 73 percent of global consumers saying the returns experience affected whether they’d continue shopping with a retailer. Additionally, 54 percent seek out a retailer’s returns policy before they purchase an item, and 28 percent were dissatisfied with a returns experience because the returns policy was unclear, restrictive or unavailable.

3. Loyalty counts.

Online shoppers, more than ever, want to be rewarded for purchases. This can benefit retailers: Loyalty program members generate a 30 percent higher average transaction value versus those who aren't members of the loyalty program. As a result, retailers should build a strong relationship with consumers.

Put another way: Retailers – like Speed Racer – need many tools at their disposal to win.

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