Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
Free Shipping Day falls on December 16 this year. If you want your store to be part of this holiday shopping event, or to offer free shipping for a longer period of time as a holiday promotion, chances are that you’ve already been planning for a while. If you haven’t been, it’s time to start.
If you haven’t heard of Free Shipping Day before, it’s the day on which thousands of online stores offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve. FreeShippingDay.com estimates that this year, more than 2,000 merchants will take part in the event. According to comScore, online shoppers spent $942 million on Free Shipping Day in 2010, up from $586 million on Free Shipping Day in 2009. Of the top shopping days in 2010, comScore reports that Free Shipping Day was behind only Cyber Monday and Green Monday, two other days that you may want to plan free shipping promotions for.
Most merchants are acutely aware that free shipping tops the list of what online shoppers look for during the holiday season and throughout the year. But the benefit isn’t only to consumers, since free shipping can also give online merchants the gift of increased traffic and sales. When requiring a minimum order amount, free shipping can help to boost order values. Offering free shipping may also help to prevent shopping cart abandonment. According to a comScore report released in May of this year, "61% of consumers are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to cancel their entire purchase if free shipping is not offered."
Let your customers know about free shipping offers
Offering free shipping while controlling costs
Knowing this, the question for many small businesses becomes how to work free shipping into store promotions without breaking the bank. Luckily, there are some valuable tips out there on how to achieve this.
Back in June, I attended a session called "How to offer free shipping and keep costs in check" at the 2011 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition. During the session, Tim Sailor (Principal and Founder of Navigo Consulting Group) and Aimee Roy (Distribution Manager at Stonewall Kitchen) offered the following free shipping planning tips for small businesses:
Budget first. If you’re offering free shipping with a minimum order value, consider your packing and labor costs, and remember to calculate add-on costs such as residential delivery charges, delivery area surcharges, fuel surcharges, and cost of returns. Once you’ve assessed this, you’re in a better position to determine a minimum order value required for free shipping.
Offer free shipping on select items for the holidays, and on items that are overstocked. Sailor and Roy observed that shoppers are sometimes more inclined to buy an item when free shipping is offered for it, than they are when a 25% discount is offered for the same item.
Budget free shipping into sales transactions. Sailor and Roy noted that some companies place free shipping costs into their marketing budget.
Assess your distribution patterns and trends, and negotiate concessions with your shipping carriers in target spend areas.
Use free shipping as a marketing tool (vs. offering free shipping 365 days per year).
Luke Knowles, the founder of Free Shipping Day, also offers free shipping advice for small businesses. In The Free Shipping eBook, which is available as a free download, Knowles covers six different types of free shipping offers available to merchants and the benefits of each. These are:
- Free shipping on everything
- Free shipping with a minimum order value
- Free shipping on select items
- Free shipping site-to-store (if you also have a physical store location)
- Free shipping by delivery location
- Free shipping by membership
He also adds a flat-rate shipping offer to his list. In his book, Knowles discusses how these methods can be used to turn casual shoppers into repeat customers and shares useful tips on how to promote your free shipping offers for maximum effect. If your store has a free shipping promotion, you can have your offers featured on Knowles’ site, FreeShipping.org. (An email address to contact Knowles about this is included in The Free Shipping eBook.)
Features to help you offer free shipping
Several features available to Merchant Solutions and Yahoo! Store merchants can help you offer and promote free shipping this holiday season. Here are a few suggestions:
Create a standard coupon for free shipping in Coupon Manager, and advertise this code on your site and in your marketing campaigns.
Offer single-use coupons for free shipping to reward your past customers and encourage their business during the holidays. When you send them a coupon code for free shipping, consider including a second "friends and family" free shipping coupon code that they can pass along. By giving the gift of free shipping to someone else, your customers can help you with gaining new customers and promoting your store. Learn how to create single-use coupons.
Create a free shipping offer using Coupon Manager
Create a free shipping rule in Shipping Manager or using the Shipping Wizard. These features let you set a minimum order value to qualify for free shipping, and to set up free shipping for specific locations.
Use Floating Cart to let customers know when their order qualifies for free shipping. You can set up a free shipping offer and customize the shipping method, required order amount, and free shipping message in the Global Settings section of Floating Cart Manager. Learn how.
If you’re offering free shipping with a minimum order value and have items that qualify for free shipping on their own, you may want to feature these items in a special section on your site. Learn how to create section pages in Store Editor.
If you’re planning to take part in Free Shipping Day, remember to let potential customers know by calling out your free shipping offer in your marketing campaigns, and making sure your offer is advertised in a prominent spot across your site. And don’t forget to sign up for Free Shipping Day on FreeShippingDay.com. Free shipping offers from merchants signed up for Free Shipping Day will appear on FreeShippingDay.com beginning at 12:00 a.m. EST on December 16, 2011.
Has free shipping worked for you? Leave a comment to let us know about your experiences. You can also answer our free shipping poll question on the front page of the blog.