How to Offer Free Shipping for Your Online Store?

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Put the word ‘free’ before practically anything and you’re going to get people’s attention. It’s a no-brainer therefore that offering free shipping for your products can be a great way of convincing potential customers to make a purchase. 

For many people the downside to online shopping is the astronomical shipping fees that can be added on at checkout, often leading to abandoned carts and no purchases. 

If you’re thinking about offering free shipping on your online store then look no further. Our experts have put together this article guiding you through the process and everything you need to know in order to decide if it’s the right choice for you. 

Why Should You Consider Free Shipping?

As online shopping becomes the norm, so too does the expectation of free shipping. With so many online retailers offering free shipping as standard, it can be the thing that makes or breaks your customer’s purchase decision. 

Whilst the benefits for customers of free shipping are obvious, there are also perks for online merchants too. 

The key benefit is the boost in the number of online sales you make, helping to push people over the line. Often free shipping will encourage customers to make larger orders too, especially if you’ve set a minimum spend in order to qualify. 

How you ship your products can also help you to stay competitive in an over-populated market. If you’re offering a similar product to one of your competitors at a similar cost then the option of free shipping can help to balance the scales in your favor.

Similarly, if a customer has shopped with you before and knows that you provide free shipping, they’ll be much more likely to come back and make a return purchase. 

How Can You Cover the Costs of Free Shipping?

The main concern that often puts merchants off from offering free shipping is the costs. After all, just because your customer isn’t paying to ship the product doesn’t mean you’re not. 

So how can you make sure you’re covering the costs of shipping in order to protect your profit margins?

Increase Product Price 

The most obvious way to make sure you’re covering the costs of providing free shipping is to increase the price of the actual products you sell. 

Including the shipping costs within the standard price of the product helps to give the illusion of free shipping when in reality, customers are paying more to cover the shipping costs. 

Retain Your Customers

If you’re able to retain your customers and convert them into repeat purchasers then you’ll quickly cover any additional outlay costs you may face, including shipping.

By keeping your customers within your online ecosystem, for example through email sign-ups or social media accounts, you’ll encourage repeat purchases, which in the long run will make you far more money than you’ll spend on free shipping.

Increase AOV (Average Order Value)

If you can manage to increase the AOV of purchases then the extra boost to your profit margins will make the outlay for free shipping seem tiny. 

There are various ways you can increase how much people spend on your online store – popular methods include setting a minimum spend to qualify for free shipping and offering special product packages or bundles. 

A bundle is where you package together multiple similar items at a discounted rate. For example, if you sell beauty products you may offer a combination of bath salts, body oil, and moisturizer as a package. 

Show the bundle side-by-side next to the individual items so that customers can see that they are getting a great deal. Everybody loves a bargain!

Nintendo bundle shopping
Nintendo even allows customers to build their own bundles, increasing the overall cost of an individual order.

Free Shipping Options

Once you’ve decided that offering free shipping is right for your online store then there are various ways that you can offer it. Make sure to let us know in the comment section which one you opt for!

Unconditional Free Shipping 

Unconditional free shipping means that you offer free shipping on everything, with no requirements for customers to qualify. This option is particularly useful if you sell smaller or cheaper items which make setting a minimum order spend or weight tricky. 

Conditional Free Shipping

The most common method of offering free shipping is a conditional model. This means that customers must meet certain requirements in order to receive free shipping on their orders. These requirements can include:

  • Order price – A customer’s order must reach a certain price in order to access free shipping. 
  • Number of items – A customer’s order must contain a certain amount of items or be a certain weight in order to qualify for free shipping.
  • Certain items – Only certain items from your store can be shipped for free (a useful option if you sell both large and small products and you don’t want to offer free shipping for bulkier and heavier orders). 
  • Specific times – Free shipping is only available during certain promotional periods.
  • Specific locations – You only provide free shipping to specific locations (usually within the US). 
  • VIP member benefit – You can offer free shipping as a VIP member benefit, encouraging customers to sign up to your mailing list or subscriber package. 
  • First-time customers – Free shipping is only available to customers making their first order from your online store. 

How to Market Free Shipping

It’s no use offering free shipping to customers to help boost your sales if you aren’t going to shout about it.

As we’ve already said, free shipping can be what finalizes a customer’s decision to make a purchase so they need to know it’s an available option within your store!

There are various ways you can market your free shipping service including:

Promotional Pop-Ups

Pop-ups can be annoying when not implemented correctly but they can also be a great way of highlighting special offers to customers. A pop-up that tells users free shipping is available and how they can qualify for it ensures customers know about your offer. 

Threshold Promotions

Running threshold promotions can be a great way of showcasing your free shipping offers to customers. Threshold promotions are often limited-time offers such as “Spend $50 and qualify for free shipping, this week only! 

Kate Spade shipping promotion
Kate Spade promotes their free shipping threshold promotion with a banner across the top of every landing page on its website.

If you’re running a threshold promotion then make sure to promote it across your website, social media channels, and email marketing campaigns.

Promo Codes

Promo codes that when activated will qualify the customer for free delivery are a great way of providing free delivery without having to enable it for all customers.

Providing free delivery promo codes to your email subscribers or social media followers allows you to give back something to your audience and hopefully encourage them to make a purchase.

Cart Abandonment Recovery

One of the most common reasons that customers abandon their carts before completing a purchase is shipping costs. If you can successfully re-target those customers – via email, for example – and offer them free delivery as an incentive, there’s a high chance they’ll return to their carts and complete their order.

How to Offer Free Shipping: Summary

Offering free shipping can be a great way of growing your customer base and increasing your sales – however, you need to ensure that you can afford the initial cost before making a final decision. 

This article has explained the various ways you can offer free shipping without damaging your profit margins in the long run. To recap these include:

  1. Increase the original product price to cover shipping costs.
  2. Set a minimum spend threshold to qualify for free shipping.
  3. Only run free shipping promotions at specific times of the year.
  4. Provide a free shipping promo code rather than offering it as standard to all customers.

If you’re ready to start offering free shipping on your online store then make sure to check out our handy post on checkout page optimization tips to help improve your customer experience even further. 

Don’t forget to let us know in the comments which free shipping option you go for and how it works for you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Offering free shipping can provide you with a whole host of benefits including more sales, increased purchase price, and higher customer retention rates.
There are various ways you can keep your shipping costs low in order to balance the outlay of offering free shipping. These include opting for cheaper, unbranded packaging options, reducing the shipping distance by using a different fulfillment center, and shopping around for the best carrier rates.
In order for a minimum spend threshold to be beneficial to you, you will need to ensure the price is higher than what a customer would normally spend, but not so highly increased that the free shipping is no longer worth the additional cost.

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