Free Shipping is Your Secret Weapon this Holiday Season

Online present shopping concept mouse on green background with present.

Free shipping is a huge motivator for online shoppers, especially during the holiday season. Smart online retailers will start now to plan an ecommerce shipping strategy that attracts customers, sells more products and boosts profits.

Last year, free shipping was the No. 1 incentive online retailers planned to offer, Internet Retailer reports. In the week before Christmas 2013, more than 60 percent (625) of the top 1,000 online retailers in North America had some kind of free shipping offer; of those, 294 offered free shipping on any size order.

But free shipping doesn’t have to mean you ship a $2.50 item free every day of the year. You’ll need to do the math as to what types of orders can absorb the cost of free shipping and how often you can offer it. Here are some ways online retailers can offer free shipping without breaking the bank:

  • Offer free shipping on any size order—no minimum—occasionally as a promotional tool to get shoppers to your website. For example, email customers a code for free shipping with a link to your website.
  • Offer free shipping for a limited time, such as during a sale or from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.
  • Offer free shipping for “members.” Amazon uses this tactic with its Amazon Prime membership; qualified products ship in two days for an annual fee.
  • Offer free shipping for certain items. Most likely, these will be high-margin items so you can absorb the shipping cost, or high-demand items that will attract customers to your website—where they’ll browse and (hopefully) buy other items.
  • Offer free shipping above a minimum order threshold. Depending on the average cost of what you sell, $50, $75 or $125 are common thresholds online retailers
  • Offer free shipping if customers have the purchase shipped to your store for pickup. You’d be surprised how many customers are willing to drive to a store to save $6 or $7 on shipping!
  • Offer free shipping as an incentive to people with abandoned shopping carts. Often, a reminder email with free shipping is all they need to make the purchase.

Notice the magic word here? It’s “free”—not “fast.” Consumers will jump through a lot of hoops, including waiting longer for their orders, to get free shipping. Of course, when you are offering free shipping during the holidays, you also want to make sure orders arrive on time. Your website should prominently display key deadlines by which customers need to order to get free shipping and still get their products in time for Christmas, so no one’s disappointed.

For more insight, check out our ecommerce tips and trends page.

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