November 1, 2013 Leave a Comment
If there’s one promotion merchants bank on to make their holiday season a success, it’s the free shipping offer. After all, free shipping tops the list of consumers’ favorite promotions, with 91% saying they’re likely to take advantage of free delivery with no threshold and nearly one in two saying they’d make enough purchases to qualify for a free shipping threshold, according to the MarketLive/e-tailing group Consumer Shopping Survey.
But new research suggests that merchants don’t do enough to promote their free shipping offerings. For one, just 26% of the largest online merchants devote significant home page space to free shipping promotions with medium or large-sized banners, according to Forrester Research — and fully one in five merchants don’t flag free shipping with any banner at all. Free shipping promotions are scarcer still on product pages, in the global cart and main shopping cart page, all of which are opportunities to remind shoppers of the opportunity for savings — not to mention on other touchpoints such as social media outposts and mobile sites.
This is an oversight there is still time to rectify with timely messaging that can help merchants stand out from the crowd. Among the tactics to consider:
Message with your competition in mind — starting with Amazon. Amazon.com gifted other merchants early this season with its recent announcement of a higher free shipping threshold for shoppers who aren’t members of its Prime subscription service. The 40% jump still only raises the threshold to $35, but the move is a boon for those merchants who can match or better that amount.
Beyond Amazon, merchants should also be aware of what their competitors are offering and what industry standards are for thresholds. Some averages, according to the Forrester report:
Armed with this knowledge, merchants needn’t rush to change their policies, but rather should fine-tune their messaging. Merchants who can match Amazon or offer a lower threshold than their competitors should play up the price point prominently; those whose threshold is higher than average should tout special service offerings, product guarantees, and easy returns to compensate. MarketLive merchant dELiA*s supplements its $75 free shipping deal with a $25 coupon toward the next purchase — an offer that sweetens the deal for consumers while also encouraging repeat purchases.
Don’t forget mobile users. Too often, merchants focus their free shipping messaging on the eCommerce site and email promotions, without creating corresponding promotions on the mobile site. That’s a mistake, as mobile shoppers are especially apt to be using their devices for research and price comparison. Sixty-four percent of smartphone owners say they plan to use their devices to check for sales and discounts, while more than one in two say they’ll seek out competitive pricing, according to the MarketLive survey.
While mobile sites need to be streamlined for maximum efficiency, merchants should still dedicate screen real estate to free shipping offers throughout the path to purchase, as well as linking to information about any free in-store pickup options available. Piperlime anchors in the global header of its mobile site a promotion of its “free shipping both ways” offer with no threshold, prominently calling attention to its competitive policy.
Incorporate messaging into triggered emails. Promotion of free shipping offers shouldn’t be limited to email campaigns sent to existing subscribers. Merchants should also incorporate the offers into triggered emails to alert cart abandoners, potential replenishment candidates and even recipients of immediate post-purchase notifications about the opportunity to earn free shipping. Such incentives could spur re-engagement with the brand, recouping potentially lost sales or earning repeat business. Macy’s promotes its free shipping offer with a $99 threshold in welcome emails to new subscribers, alerting them to the policy with a banner below the header navigation.
How are you positioning and promoting your holiday free shipping offers?