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The Boston Globe

Business

Staples among best in delivery in national survey

If you place an order with Staples.com, there’s a good chance it will arrive within 24 hours — or even sooner.

That’s according to a study of delivery speeds for the top 25 online US retailers in November by STELLAService, an independent research company. It found the Framingham-based office supply company tied with online apparel retailer Zappos and office products seller Office Depot for the fastest delivery time.

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To produce the rankings, STELLAService used a nationwide network of mystery shoppers who ordered 75 items — three per retailer — and then recorded how long it took for the products to arrive.

The three fastest companies delivered purchases within one day, on average — three days shorter than what the study found to be the median delivery time.

Staples Inc., which is the second-largest online seller after Amazon, has been devoting more resources to e-commerce. Tuesday, the company unveiled a new Cambridge innovation center called the “Velocity Lab,” which will house teams responsible for online and mobile-shopping development.

The lab “provides a space to allow our teams to think creatively, enhancing our mobile commerce, social media, and online offerings,” Brian Tilzer, Staples senior vice president of global e-commerce, said in a statement.

Staples, Zappos, and Office Depot all attributed their high rankings in the study to an emphasis on customer service.

J.C. Penney was at the bottom of the list compiled by STELLAService, which is based in New York. The national department store chain’s online division took an average of nine days to get an order into a customer’s hands. Walmart ranked second to last with an average of six days and 16 hours, and Target came in at number 23 with an average delivery time of six days and seven hours.

Target and J.C. Penney could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman for Walmart Stores Inc. said the company’s internal tracking methods showed the average delivery time last month was just three days.

When it comes to online shopping, consumers are just as concerned about delivery time and branding as they are about price, according to Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Digital Business. Brynjolfsson said a study he conducted showed that when given the option to buy the same item from two different online retailers, consumers more often chose the company that could make the delivery faster, even if that meant paying more.

“We found that delivery time made a huge difference to people’s choices,” he said. “That’s why [STELLAService’s] ranking is useful and valuable, because it’s something consumers really care about.”

A speedy delivery time can also be the deciding factor when it comes to whether a consumer will shop in a store or online, Brynjolfsson said.

“There will be some people who have a preference for the in-store experience. There are people who prefer online,” he said. “Then there’s people who are in the middle who want something quickly, and if you get it to them a little faster you can change them to be an online shopper.”

Laura Finaldi can be reached at laura.finaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauraefinaldi.

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