Yoni was well aware of the risk that the birthday present he bought online for his fiancee would take a long time to arrive. The foreign website where he bought it promised delivery in 30 days, but he placed his order weeks in advance just to be sure.
Sure enough, 30 days later the present hadn’t arrived. A couple weeks later, he bought a replacement gift at a bricks-and-mortar store in Israel. Finally, five months later, Yoni received a notice telling him the package was waiting at the local post office.
How typical is the long wait, or worse still a lost or damaged package? A lot is at stake as Israelis increasingly buy online — mainly from global retailers such as Amazon, Alibaba and Ebay, in order to take advantage of lower prices and a better selection than at Israeli stores, as well as a generous customs exemption.
Israel Post admits it has been overwhelmed by a surge of online buying, which reached 52 million packages last year. But it is equally insistent that it’s doing a good job — or at least a better one since the State Comptroller issued a stinging report in November on its failures.
On the other hand, actual online shoppers like Yoni (who asked that his full name not be used) have a very different story. TheMarker decided to put the system to a test, and the results were not favorable to Israel Post.
Despite the flood of internet commerce over the last two years, Euromonitor, a global market research firm, estimated that in 2015 only 6% of all retail sales were done online. It expects that figure to grow to 10% by 2020, but that is still well below the potential. The room to grow will be constrained by lost, damaged and delayed deliveries.
Israel Post is only one link in a long ecommerce chain. From the moment, a shopper places an international order online his or her package passes through a logistics company that gets it to the nearest airport at the website’s home country, then it is passed on to an airline that brings it to Israel, and from there to Israel Post, with a side trip to customs, before it reaches its destination.
The State Comptroller, however, cast most of the blame for the system’s failure on Israel Post, based on studies it conducted more than a year earlier. The postal agency insists that it has made big changes, including opening 300 pick-up desks, longer opening hours at post offices and an app that lets recipients track orders.
It also points to figures that claim only 2,448 complaints about nondelivery of packages were made in 2016.
And Israel Post wasn’t prepared to take responsibility for the problems there were. “The reasons [for nondelivery] can arise from many things that aren’t the responsibility of Israel Post like incorrect addresses or the absence of information of the package’s contents, returned packages because the recipient refused to accept it due to customs fees,” it said.
TheMarker’s experiment, however, showed a much higher rate of lost deliveries. Fifteen testers each ordered three products from five of the ecommerce sites that are most popular with Israelis: Ebay, Amazon, Ali Express, Asos and Next. They found huge variations in delivery times and service.
Of the 15 items ordered, one (from Amazon) never arrived and was lost in the system.
The average waiting time from order to delivery was 26 days, but that is a misleading figures. For orders from Ali Express, the average wait was 30.6 days, for Amazon it was 31 days and for Ebay 35 days.
For the orders from two other sites, the British fashion retailers Next and Asos, the average time to arrival was 8 and 8.6 days, respectively. However, Asos stopped using Israel Post’s services in August and now delivers good through E-Post , a private company; Next uses Israel Post’s premium service, which costs it more.
Discounting Next and Asos, the average delivery time for a package ordered online by TheMarker testers was 32.2 days.
Israel Post said the figures testify to its improvements it had made.
“The British website Next is an excellent example of a site that moved to our prime service a year ago, which significantly improved delivery times for its packages. We’re working with other international sites to move them to this system so customers can’t get packages faster and track them at every stage,” it said.