Free Shipping ... for Some

Share this content:
Though offers of free shipping are nothing new in direct marketing, in these lean economic times many merchants are testing how to attach conditions to those offers while still enticing consumers to shop.

"The biggest thing that consumers want is free shipping," said Lauren Freedman, president of the E-tailing Group, Chicago, an e-commerce consultancy.

However, the across-the-board offer of free shipping to all consumers on all purchases essentially disappeared about three years ago, she said.

The E-tailing Group tracks customer service performance, including shipping, in its annual Mystery Shopping Study, the results of which were released yesterday.

Of the 100 Web sites in Freedman's survey, only four offered free shipping on all products during the fourth quarter of 2004 while 48 offered conditional free shipping. In 2003, eight sites offered unconditional free shipping while 43 made the offer conditional.

If consumers are on the fence about ordering, free shipping can tip them over the edge, Freedman said.

The only companies that regularly don't offer free shipping are those such as Lands' End that have proprietary product, because "if you want Lands' End product, you want it," Freedman said.

This holiday season, L.L. Bean, which has a tradition of offering unconditional free shipping, made it conditional to some and unconditional to others. It mailed a catalog to existing customers with no offer of free shipping. A second catalog that went to prospects, however, offered free shipping with no minimum purchase required. Orders had to be placed by Dec. 22.

The prospecting catalog had fewer pages than the regular one and featured a larger page size and different photography.

Multichannel marketers use free-shipping offers to make the shopping experience more convenient., for example, has a new returns system called Express Exchange. Customers who bought something online -- then decided the color or size is wrong -- can exchange the item at no cost. Also, Old Navy will ship the replacement before it gets the returned item.

Brands with a strong catalog heritage such as Coldwater Creek and J. Crew offer free shipping on items that are not in stock when customers shop for them in a store, if they then order the item online or from a catalog.


Next Article in Multichannel Marketing

Sign up to our newsletters

Company of the Week

We recently were named B2B Magazine's Direct Marketing Agency of the Year, and with good reason: We make real, measureable, positive change happen for our clients. A full-service agency founded in 1974, Bader Rutter expertly helps you get the right message to the right audience at the right time through the right channels. As we engage our clients' audiences along their journey, direct marketing (email, direct mail, phone, SMS) and behavioral marketing (SEM, retargeting, contextual) channels deliver information relevant to the needs of each stage. We are experts at implementing and leveraging marketing technologies such as CRM and marketing automation in order to synchronize sales and marketing communications. Our team of architects and activators plan, execute, measure and adjust in real time to ensure the strategy is working as needed and change things if it's not.

Find out more here »

Career Center

Check out hundreds of exciting professional opportunities available on DMN's Career Center.  
Explore careers in digital marketing, sales, eCommerce, marketing communications, IT, data strategies, and much more. And don't forget to update your resume so employers can contact you privately about job opportunities.

>>Click Here

Relive the 2017 Marketing Hall of Femme

Click the image above