Online retailers face different challenges compared to their brick and mortar counterparts. Even after a website has successfully converted a browser into a paying customer, there is still a chance to mess things up with the shipping. Aside from the obvious concerns of shipping costs and waiting time, a new report finds that stolen packages are a larger problem than many would assume. Furthermore, the study suggests that concerns over package theft can affect shopping behaviors and how consumers perceive a business.

The packaging company Shorr recently commissioned a survey of 1,000 consumers to "understand who's been affected by package theft, what cautionary methods Americans are taking to avoid their online shipments from getting taken, and to see how they think online retailers can keep their packages safe."

The survey found that package theft is surprising more common and spread throughout the year. According to Shorr survey, nearly three in 10 consumers have experienced package theft in the last year.

Despite these concerns, consumers still prefer home delivery by a large margin. Nearly all (95 percent) packages are shipped to a home, and only 5 percent are sent to a person's job. In fact, 53 percent of respondents said they would actively change their plans to make sure they are home for packages, despite not having to sign for it.

Package theft has ramifications that go beyond the loss of a single item a consumer purchase. The analysis from the Shorr report suggests fear can tremendously affect the way people shop. The researchers found that 41 percent of respondents don't buy certain items online because they're afraid the packages will get stolen. Due to their value and usually obvious packaging, electronics are the top item consumers wait to buy out of their concern of package pirates.

The issue of descriptive packaging came up when researchers asked consumers what factors made a package a target for theft. Thought the location of the box after arriving was the highest cited factor, mentioned by 33 percent of respondents, branded packaging (31 percent) and descriptive text on the box (20 percent) were also highly relevant factors. It's easy for a potential thief to choose a package to steal when it's clearly a TV shaped box with the words Samsung written on the box.

Understanding the factors that can lead to package theft is important, since consumers often hold businesses responsible for packing and shipping issues. According to the Shorr survey, 61 percent of respondents said they believe online retailers are not doing enough to prevent package theft. Ironically, these respondents were less likely to blame the shipper, with 58 percent of respondents believe shipping companies are doing their job to prevent package theft.

Since consumers hold companies responsible for porch piracy and items stolen from the stoop, it's useful to know what customers expect business owners to do to prevent package theft. Here are some examples of what respondents in the Shorr survey believed could reduce package theft: discreet packaging (29 percent), package theft insurance (16 percent) and the ability to track the boxes with GPS (9 percent).

There is no one best solution for how to protect packages and to increase consumer confidence when having items bought online shipped to them. A good tactic for online retailers is to allow multiple options for customers, so they can use the option that protects their package the best and works best for the consumer's schedule. From offering site-to-store pick up, to having items shipped to an office, when customer have options, they can choose a method that leaves less room for potential theft.

Regardless of how business owners tackle the problem, it's important that they stay proactive by preventing theft and working with customers to resolve issues that can arise from missing or stolen merchandise.

For more recent research that can help online businesses succeed, read this article on creating better email marketing campaigns.