One of the biggest questions we here at RepricerExpress deal with is, should you offer free shipping and returns? Countless merchants grapple with this issue and its benefits or consequences — should they eat the small extra cost to lure in more buyers, or just work it into the final price? Spoiler alert: we’re in favour of it, but read on to find out why.
Dream Come True for Buyers
Think of all the times you ever shopped online and were on the fence about purchasing a product. It seemed pretty cool and at a good price, but what if the item you returned was defective or not quite as advertised? Something that could tip the purchase in your favour was the promise of free shipping.
Now insert this hypothetical scenario into the minds of each and every one of your buyers, and you’ve got an accurate idea of just how powerful the lure of free shipping is. It is, quite literally, a deal maker or breaker for most of your buyers, a tool that can either convince them to go ahead and splurge a little or to find another merchant who can provide free shipping.
Mind you, free shipping may not always be practical or possible, but when it is, here’s how to implement it without your profit margin taking a huge hit.
Figure Out Which Items Can Handle Free Shipping
Most merchants choose to set some sort of limit on their free shipping promise, whether it’s by using a price or item number threshold, offering it to just domestic purchases so there are no foreign custom taxes or fees, or raising the cost of all items a tad to cover the free shipping.
When free shipping is involved, one party invariably has to pay for it, but the trick is to make it seem like it’s manna that fell out of the heavens. If you deal in low-priced trinkets, having free shipping on any number of items isn’t the best business practice, and neither is raising the price of all items (they’re low-priced for a reason and there are certain products people won’t pay more for). In this case, you’ll probably have to implement a price or item number threshold to make free shipping worth it.
Likewise, if you sell really heavy or large-sized items, free shipping may pose a financial risk to you. You’ll have to look at techniques and tricks where neither you nor your buyer have to shoulder a burdensome load. But if free shipping just isn’t a possibility, then here are two alternatives where you can still win over your buyers.
Forego Free Shipping for a Shipping Calculator
Shoppers are savvy enough to know not everything will always go their way; when that happens, what they want most is honesty and transparency. If you can’t provide free shipping, what you can do — that’ll score major brownie points — is to be straight up with them and say exactly how much it’ll cost.
You can implement a real-time shipping calculator on your site where buyers can choose which shipping method they want based on how much it’ll cost them. There are no surprises, as they’re getting the information straight from the horse’s mouth and get to maintain control over the method and cost. Plus, buyers will also see you’re not trying to hose them and instead are trying to be as honest and transparent as possible.
If you don’t want to go that route, you can put in a flat shipping rate yourself. It’ll mean a tad more work for yourself because you’ll have to calculate how much different packages and weights ship for, then select the average based on that. This can be tricky because you’ll need to take into account which of your items sell best, and then come up with that magic number that’s as close to the button as possible. You may end up being a smidgen over or under, but it’ll average out by the end.