Stamps.com has published the results of a survey in which, among other things, they asked eCommerce merchants to rate their most effective holiday sales promotion. The answer was overwhelmingly Free Shipping.
They also found that most people plan on offering free shipping on more products this year than last year; and out of those who are offering free shipping on some products, that “some” represents over half of their catalog. They asked some other questions about social media and international sales to
make their primary concern less obvious round-out the poll. It is definitely worth a read so go check it out.
I would normally take the chart above with a grain of salt, given that it comes from a company with very obvious incentives to promote shipping offers of any kind. However, having worked as an eCommerce SEO for several years, I can attest to the power of shipping offers (Anecdotally, our email responders were even more interested in .99 cent shipping than free shipping, for some reason). Also a recent poll from SeeWhy.com corroborates the findings. Their poll (again, with a small sample size and unpublished methodology) found that most (61%) of the holiday promotions this year will be focused on Free Shipping offers.
In fact, an entire free shipping shopping holiday is now up and running along-side Cyber Monday as a HUGE revenue producer for online businesses. And the site behind this holiday, FreeShipping.org, lists free shipping offers all year long for thousands of stores online.
As a marketer, I saw it work first-hand, and I’ve read plenty of studies backing up that anecdotal evidence. More importantly, as a consumer who does most of his shopping online, I can say that free shipping – or shipping costs in general – happens to be a very large part of my buying decision. Lest you make the assumption that consumers are stupid, however, I always compare prices to make sure that the shipping fees haven’t been tacked onto the price of the goods in the first place. So my advice to eCommerce businesses this year: If it doesn’t weigh more than you do, ship it for free. The reduction in margin is usually made up for in a higher AOV. Even if you only break even on certain products, you’ll end up with a lot of happy, new customers with happy email addresses and happy wallets and happy, catalog-accepting mail boxes to make your old-school snail mail divisions happy too.