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Answering: The Pros and Cons of Free Shipping

Posted by Mary Yaeger on 1/17/2018

As your screen printing shop grows you may start to consider ways to beat out the competition. The biggest question you will probably ask yourself will be: “will free shipping help with sales”. Before you jump into the deep end, we’ve got a few tips we want to share along with the pros and cons of offering free shipping.

We have experimented with a few different ways that you can tackle free shipping.

1.       Offering free shipping on your products and paying for the cost

2.       Advertising free shipping with the cost built into the product price

3.       Tackling freight weights, dimensions, distances and calculating shipping costs per order

What we have learned

Typically, customers like to see the total upfront price when they are shopping around. If you have an e-commerce site, you will notice that customers will add items to their cart only to abandon them later. This is often the case because they were price comparing the at-checkout cost.

Pros:

Listing a product as “free shipping” will get that product looked at and purchased more times than others not listed as “free shipping” because in the customer’s mind, there are no surprises.

Products listed as “free shipping” tend to automatically register in our minds as the “lowest price” when often they are the most expensive.

Sites like Amazon favor items with “free shipping” and tend to push them to the top.

Cons:

We haven’t seen any increase in sales when we offer free shipping. I say this because offering free shipping means that you must eat cost somewhere.  

With free ship items, you can get burned on the return cost. Since your customers did not technically pay a shipping cost, you can’t withhold shipping from a refund.

You may also find that the customers who buy from you for the “free shipping”, may never buy from you again.

We tend to be a “must have now” society, and while this may seem like an advantage to your business, it doesn’t necessarily make you competitive. The mindset that we have had to tackle is if we are offering the same deal as everyone else how are we really being competitive? This is a hard question to answer.

The Solution

Going back to the question posed above – while free shipping may sound like a competitive edge over your competition, you might not find any benefit for your business. It could be that it’s too risky, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s your business and you need to decide what the best route is to continue growing. When we asked ourselves that question, we realized that “free shipping” wasn’t the end all be all solution to our sales needs.

So, what was?

We decided that the best thing we could do would be offer quality products and be transparent for our customers. When we are honest on our products (i.e. not hiding costs in product price) and upfront about what they are purchasing, we’ve noticed more quality orders.

We look at it as playing the long game, but we would rather play the long game and keep our customers returning than have customers that buy once and never buy again. 

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