6 Free Shipping Strategies and Their Alternatives

Oct 25, 2016 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team
Free Shipping Tactics for Your Online Store
Posted Oct 25, 2016 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team

Free shipping.

These two words work like a magic spell. They are the #1 way to enthuse customers to buy from you.

However, offering free shipping on your online store may be quite a venture.

How can you predict whether free shipping will be profitable? How do you choose a good shipping strategy that doesn’t break the bank? Is it even a reliable idea for small businesses?

We suggest that you don’t act with a blindfold on, so we have collected some free shipping tactics for you.

Should I offer free shipping?

Researchers say 46% of customers are likely to pay a bit more for their overall order if it comes with free shipping.

It might not come as a surprise, but 84% of online customers are more likely to shop with brands that offer free shipping.

Bearing in mind that we are heading into the holiday season, it’s also important to take into account that 87% of consumers will refer to Amazon for their gift purchases — and Amazon is one of the most famous providers of free shipping.

Shipping stats

But the key takeaway is that you shouldn’t offer it just because your customers expect it, or because it might increase your order volume, or because you are eager to take a piece of Amazon’s and other giants’ big money.

What you really should do is make a cold-hearted calculation based on the following factors:

  • Your profit margins. Remember that your margins vary per product. Don’t be too hasty to put a free shipping label on every piece in your store.
  • Your products. The weight and size of a product influence the shipping cost. The heavier and larger a product is, the more restrictions you should consider for shipping.
  • Your AOV. If you offer free shipping with a threshold, you’ll want to increase your AOV (average order value). Measure it and set a threshold a little above that amount.
  • Your customer’s location. If you ship abroad or to faraway destinations, don’t forget to exclude them from your free shipping list or to at least set a threshold.

Don’t offer free shipping just because your customers expect it or because it might increase your order volume.

Related: How to Set Up Shipping Rates in Your Store Using Ecwid

6 ways to implement free shipping in your online store

If you have decided to offer free shipping on your website, you should know there is more than one way to do so.

Here are six tactics to implement free shipping for your online store.

Free shipping on everything

There is no doubt you can only offer this in case you sell small and lightweight products with a high profit margin (for example, jewelry or portable electronics).

Tip: If you’re capable of implementing this tactic, don’t stay under the radar. Try submitting your store on holiday shopping articles with lists of stores offering free shipping, like this one on Buzzfeed.

A shipping threshold

Setting a threshold is a strong marketing punch to increase your AOV.

Tip: Try this free tool that’ll help you calculate your optimal shipping threshold.

Free shipping on a per-product basis

Apply this tactic to stimulate customers to buy certain products that you want to sell out. For example, if you sell clothing and footwear, offer free shipping on shoes.

Tip: You can also offer free shipping for certain product combinations to encourage customers to buy more.

Free shipping to certain locations

If your sales go well, try this tactic to expand your customer base. Partner up with a new shipping service and offer deliveries to a new region.

Tip: On the other hand, if you have customers in Hawaii or in Alaska, you can restrict your shipping destinations to the U.S. continent only, just to be safe on far-away and expensive shipping.

Learn more: International Shipping: Picking a Provider & Shipping Around the Globe

Member program

Member programs are increasingly popular. It means you charge customers an annual fee in exchange for free shipping on some or all items.

Tip: Run a holiday contest and offer a free membership to attract more attention to the program.

Free shipping compensated by higher prices

Okay, it’s not strictly speaking free shipping. But it is still a good idea to raise your prices with a couple of dollars to compensate for your shipping costs. The game is worth the candle because a free shipping label will surely bring more traffic to your store.

How to implement free shipping in your Ecwid store

If you’ve been using Ecwid for a while, you have probably noticed the advanced shipping setting in your control panel.

You can create multiple shipping methods and specify destinations, flat rates, and delivery speed.

To add a “free shipping” method, just go to Settings —> Shipping —> Add new method.

Set the flat rate to $0 and name the method “Free Shipping”.

This way, your customers will see at the checkout that shipping doesn’t cost them anything.

If you want to promote free shipping on your website, use the Free Shipping Icon. This icon will be added to your product details page.

How to add free shipping icon

Add a free customizable promo bar to your homepage to welcome your customers with a Free Shipping offer:

Free promo bar

Free shipping alternatives

When free shipping is not an option, you can try other ways to improve your customers’ attitude towards your shipping terms.

Here are a couple of suggestions.

Use eco-friendly packaging

Did you know that styrofoam, which is used to keep products safe from damage and extreme temperatures, is heavily polluting the environment? Not only is it unsustainable, but its manufacturing process generates a lot of waste.

If you have a mature attitude towards helping our planet, use fibrous blocking materials such as corrugated inserts instead of styrofoam. And don’t forget to tell your customers about it.

Ecological problems touch many people’s hearts. Show them you care too.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Packaging

Same-day delivery

Sometimes free shipping is not what people are looking for in the first place.

With the increasing number of holiday procrastinators every year, it becomes more and more important to provide fast delivery.

If you’re a local business, make same-day delivery your strong point. Feel free to charge more for the urgency, but keep an eye on your courier service.

Related: How to Get from Zero to Ship: Carriers, Rates and Strategies

Free return/exchange

When customers see a free shipping label, they automatically think you offer free returns as well. But that is not necessarily the case.

If you can’t offer free shipping, providing free returns will comfort your customers.

Free in-store pickup

Some people love in-store pickup even more than delivery at their door. Why?

Because an in-store pickup service allows them to order now and come for the purchase when it’s convenient.

Use tools like In-Store Pickup to easily show your pickup location options to customers and increase conversions on your website.

Read also: Why You Should Offer In-Store Pickup (Even If You Don’t Have A Physical Store)

About The Author
Lina is a content creator at Ecwid. She writes to inspire and educate readers on all things commerce. She loves to travel and runs marathons.

Stay up to date!

Get free e-commerce tips, news and inspiring ideas delivered directly to your inbox