Ship Free or Die Hard…Ecommerce Rule Number One

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Online retailers in every niche have never faced stiffer competition. Whatever it is you do, chances are there are countless others sellers doing exactly the same. All of which prompts retailers to go to extreme measures to ensure they bring in as much business as possible.

The thing is though, all the weird and wonderful special offers and services promised in the world only have so much value. If a recent study in consumer habits in the US is anything to go by, there’s one thing and one thing alone shoppers are unwilling to compromise on:

Free shipping.

According to the study carried out by Arvato, a huge 83% of consumers said that free shipping is the primary deal-breaker when shopping online. Only 17% showing willingness to buy in the absence of free shipping. What’s more, 52% stated they’d only buy online if free returns were supported by the seller, while 53% cited delivery speed as another make or break buying factor.

More than Fulfilment
So what’s clear is that delivery has evolved into something that goes so much further than the physical transportation of goods. It forms one of the most important components of the entire decision-making process for those shopping for pretty much anything online. If free delivery isn’t both offered and made apparent from the start, you effectively run the risk of losing 4 out of every 5 potential sales.

Retail experts are therefore warning ecommerce business owners not to overlook the importance of free shipping. Even if it means jacking prices up to cover the costs of shipping, it has to be done. Add even a penny onto the final bill for shipping during the checkout stage and the likelihood of basket abandonment skyrockets beyond belief.

It’s also time to start taking fulfilment speed more seriously, the study’s findings suggest. Approximately one in every four respondents stated that they had cancelled an order due to nothing more than slow delivery speeds, while a slightly higher 26% had taken their business elsewhere due to stock shortages with no indication of future availability.

All of which comes down to two expectations among modern consumer audiences – convenience and instant gratification. Quite simply, they want it all and they want it now. If you can’t give it to them, somebody else will. If they’re shopping for something online, they want it in their hands as quickly as physically possible without a penny extra to pay. It’s your job to find a way to make this happen, without having to increase your prices to uncompetitive levels.

On the plus side, recent studies have also shown that you can easily get away with slightly higher prices, if the service you offer goes over and above that of your rivals. Or if you offer something that’s not on the cards elsewhere. Eco-friendly packaging, charitable donations, helpful resources that go beyond simple product sales. If you can provide them with the total package, they’re happy to pay slightly more for the privilege.


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