The new standard for shipping labels is to provide a digital representation of the items being shipped, including the names of the shippers.
But a new survey finds that only about one in 10 companies are using the standard to properly label their shipments, according to an analysis by Bloomberg.
The survey of 2,400 retail companies found that only 35 percent of them use the labels to make sure their goods are safe, the most common reason listed for not using them.
Nearly half of the retailers polled said they did not use them because of privacy concerns, including “they were too sensitive,” or because they were too expensive.
Shippers’ worries about how labels are displayed on their products have become more prevalent over the past few years.
Last year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission published a report that found more than 70 percent of Americans believe the labels should be made available online.
That report said consumers have an average of 5.5 choices for shipping information on the Web, including a few that require shipping companies to send them a form to fill out.
Some of the concerns are more nuanced.
Retailers are increasingly relying on email-based shipping, which can be more expensive, and sometimes more difficult to get the correct labels on your order.
“Online shipping labels have been around for a while, but we’ve not had the benefit of having people use them in the same way we do on paper,” said Greg Pinto, a vice president at the Retail Institute of America.
“They are just not as easy to use.”
In addition, shipping labels are more difficult for customers to use because the information they include can’t be viewed by customers.
That means the labels may be hidden by an online retailer, or by the label on your receipt that has already been opened.
In one case, a shopper who bought a dress in a department store and then asked to return it because it was missing its label found it on the receipt, which could lead to a charge for shipping, said the survey’s author, Kevin Hinshaw, a senior research associate at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that researches consumer choice.
“In my opinion, labels are an important tool that needs to be improved on,” said Hinshaw, who was not involved in the study.
“I think labels have come a long way in terms of transparency, but I think the data we are seeing is showing that they are still not as good as they need to be.”
He also noted that labels aren’t always accurate.
For example, some labels have a bar code that can be difficult to read.
The shipping label can be much more accurate, he said, though that could lead customers to mistake a label for the shipping label on a receipt.
“I think there are some areas where we’re seeing the need to improve labels,” Hinshaw said.
“We need to have the option for people to look at the labels and to have that conversation about the product they are purchasing, the label they received, the cost of the product, the quality of the materials that they’re using, the labeling that we’re using and more.”