In a byline for Nasdaq, Clarus Commerce CEO Tom Caporaso talks about Free Shipping Day, the shopping holiday where 1,000+ retailers offer unrestricted free shipping and guaranteed delivery by Christmas. But, as Caporaso points out, retailers should consider making free shipping a requirement every day, as it could be a huge business booster.
As originally published in www.nasdaq.com.
As the last big online sales event every holiday season, Free Shipping Day has become increasingly valuable to shoppers and retailers. On top of getting free delivery, consumers benefit from the extra savings that many merchants offer, while e-tailers enjoy one more surge of holiday orders. However, free shipping is such a successful sales driver that, rather than saving it for one day in December and/or for high-traffic periods throughout the year, retailers should be offering it year-round.
Free Shipping Day marks the final day that participating retailers will guarantee standard delivery by Christmas Eve for online orders of any size. It therefore gives procrastinating consumers both a firm deadline for completing their online shopping and a strong incentive to do so. This year, the promotion will be held on Friday, December 16. The 2008 launch attracted only 250 retailers, but that number tripled in 2009. Last year, about 1,000 retailers took part.
Recent sales results have been even more impressive. In 2011, consumers spent over $1 billion on Free Shipping Day for the first time ever. Last year, sales totaled $1.48 billion, a 21.5% increase over 2014. Free Shipping Day is clearly here to stay as a holiday promotion — and rightfully so. All the same, if you operate a retail site, you should offer free shipping all year long instead of just on Free Shipping Day, for three simple reasons:
Free shipping is a proven deal-closer. Direct marketing experts have long understood the powerof free shipping, and e-commerce is the largest direct marketing platform ever created. Research shows that an online free shipping offer is:
- The top incentive driving people to shop more;
- Twice as effective in converting sales as percentage-off deals;
- The most important feature for customers at checkout;
- The optimal way to improve the online shopping experience; and
- Almost seven times more popular with holiday shoppers than express delivery.
Free shipping is affordable. It’s natural to worry about absorbing delivery costs, particularly if you’re a small retailer. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to mitigate those concerns, including offering free shipping:
- At a minimum purchase threshold;
- On specific items or product lines;
- Via follow-up emails to shoppers who abandon their carts;
- As a benefit in a subscription membership program; and/or
- As a reward for reaching a certain spending level in a loyalty program.
Making sure site visitors know they’ll receive free shipping when they shop regularly with you is absolutely critical, because ….
Tens of millions of people already enjoy free shipping every day. It’s no secret why shipping charges remain the leading cause of online cart abandonment. Numerous programs , including Clarus Commerce owned-and-operated FreeShipping.com, provide consumers with free delivery year-round. In fact, by the end of 2016, fully half of all U.S. households are expected to belong to Amazon Prime, thanks primarily to its free 2-day shipping offer. Once they join Prime, members are also remarkablyinclined to stay.
Therefore, unless and until you can consistently assure online shoppers that they don’t have to worry about shipping charges, you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage. Worse, because free shipping is now a prerequisite for so many consumers, even if you make an initial sale, your odds of building loyalty with that customer are severely diminished.
With sales certain to surpass $1 billion, Free Shipping Day 2016 will be another success for retailers and consumers alike. As they once again enjoy the rewards of last-minute shoppers eagerly avoiding delivery charges, though, e-tailers should remember the larger lesson: Free shipping pays off year-round. Embracing that reality will help them better compete with rivals of all sizes for the loyalty of millions of consumers.