How to Provide Free Shipping This Cyber Monday

November 18th, 2016 Comments off

Stamps.com Blog Free Shipping

We are big fans of free shipping. Who wouldn’t be? Customers rave about it and it makes conversion easier for sellers. What’s not to love about that? So, imagine our surprise when we learned that offering free shipping during the biggest ecommerce holiday of the year does not significantly impact sales.

ecomdash Free ShippingThe numbers don’t lie. Customers appear generally more willing to pay for shipping on Cyber Monday than normal. But this contradicts traditional knowledge about the positive impact of offering free shipping on ecommerce sales. As business owners, you have a decision to make. Should you use this customer data to remove free shipping and increase your revenue on Cyber Monday? Some people would be extremely uncomfortable doing so, while others would just look at it as a smart business decision.

Luckily, there’s a third option. You can still offer free shipping, but make your customers to earn it. This allows you to maximize revenue from customers who don’t mind paying for shipping on Cyber Monday without punishing your returning customers who are used to receiving free shipping. Here are a few of the ways you can get your customers to earn free shipping on Cyber Monday.

Spend X Amount

This is one of the most common ways that online retailers chose to offer free shipping. Rather than giving every order free shipping, they incentive customers to spend more money to earn it. It’s a simple tradeoff that has been statistically proven to increase both sales and revenue.

Kissmetrics found that presenting a minimum threshold for free shipping on an ecommerce site increased conversion by 26 percent. Average order value increased by 5 percent. The most important part of the process is calculating what the minimum order value needs to be. Pro ecommerce sellers use the formula below to make sure they are getting the most bang for their buck on free shipping.

ecomdash MOV

Create an Account

There are tons of great guides for ecommerce email marketing that will increase your retention and strengthen your connection with your customers, but you can’t even begin email marketing if you don’t capture email addresses. Cyber Monday is likely to be your highest selling day of the year, and if you let it pass by without collecting as many emails as possible, you’ve lost a ton of momentum that you won’t be able to easily get back.

Having customers create an account to receive free shipping is a great way to get the most out of the Cyber Monday mob. Depending on the information you request when they create the account, you can also segment your email marketing based on their gender, age, and interests, ensuring that your marketing hours are being spent in the most effective way.

Add an Item

This method is especially effective if you have items in your store that aren’t moving as fast as other items. Allow your customers to bundle a related accessory with their purchase to earn the free shipping. You get a higher order value and clear up more inventory space. The customer in turn feels as if they’re getting more out of their order, and a discount on shipping.

The item you choose to bundle should be something that a customer would need to go with their new purchase. If you’re selling guitars, your add-on item could be guitar strings or picks. If you’re selling makeup, you can bundle compact mirrors. This makes you look like you care about the buyer beyond their initial purchase.

Share Purchase on Social Media

There are tons of benefits to creating and maintaining a community of your customers on social media.

– Gives you an opportunity to humanize your brand
– Centralizes customer reviews that help new buyers convert
– Raises search engine ranking by adding to your link network
– Allows your customers a location to gather and form a culture surrounding your brand
– Provides a simple venue for quick customer feedback

That’s all easier said than done. Building a social media audience is not simple. One way to kick-start it is to incentivize your customers to share your brand on social media by offering them free shipping in exchange for hitting the share button. It supercharges your social presence by demonstrating that customers excited about your products. Not only have your customers showed off your brand to all their followers, but you now have access to your customers’ accounts.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of offering free shipping can’t be ignored. It keeps customers happy and increases conversion rates. But we also can’t ignore the raw data and revenue opportunities provided to us by Cyber Monday. This is one case where you can truly have your cake and eat it too. However you choose to allow customers to earn free shipping during the ecommerce holiday, make sure that it gives you key assets such as emails or an increased social presence. This allows you to capture momentum from the selling season and carry it with you into 2017. Harness your success and build upon it for the future. Now that’s an incentive we all want to earn.

Dion BearyAbout the author: Dion Beary writes about ecommerce for ecomdash, an ecommerce automation software system. He has more pairs of Chuck Taylors than any one person needs.

 

How To Offer Customer Service Through Your Order Fulfillment

June 15th, 2016 Comments off

sdc_ShippingStrategyCustomerServiceTo run a successful business, you need to have great customer service. While brick-and-mortar stores capitalize on the face-to-face communication we often associate with customer service, online businesses can still master the art of communicating with their customers – namely, through their shipping process. Here are five ways to master customer service by improving your shipping strategy.

1. Be clear about shipping expectations
Negative feedback is overwhelmingly related to issues associated with shipping. To hedge your bets and negate this, provide very realistic expectations for when an item should arrive. Be transparent, and explain the difference between shipping (when an item leaves your possession or warehouse to begin its journey to the customer) and delivery (when the package arrives on the buyer’s doorstep). During high-volume times like the holidays, provide a shipping time table that lets buyers see how soon they need to order packages to expect them by Christmas. Always try to get items to the Post Office the day the order was placed or within 24 hours, if possible. If and when packages show up early, buyers will be pleasantly surprised and more likely to leave positive feedback.

2. Include a custom packing slip
Marketplaces like Amazon have strict rules on how you can contact and interact with a buyer. The packing slip is a safe way to connect, and can help personalize the buying experience. Write a brief note within the packing slips thanking buyers for their patronage, letting them know that they are welcome to contact you, if necessary, and leaving the best method of contacting you. This will reassure buyers that you care, and that you’re just a phone call or email away should they need to reach out. The best packing slips I’ve seen also include a handwritten thanks with the signature of the employee that packaged my item. A reported 68% of customers will stop supporting a business if they feel that the company is indifferent towards them. Bring some humanity to the shipping experience and let buyers know you care.

3. Offer a discount for their next purchase
Discounts and coupons encourage repeat salesand demonstrate that you appreciate a customer’s business. As always, you must abide by each marketplace’s rules when offering discounts or coupons. It is legal to extend a discounted offer, but you cannot do so in exchange for positive feedback. A coupon for their next purchase may encourage feedback organically, but you can’t use it an as incentive.

4. Brand your packaging
The more you can make your buyers’ shopping experience stand out, the better. A 10-year study found that brands that can evoke an emotional connection with buyers can effectively charge up to 200% more than competitors. Branding your packaging will contribute to this. If you sell on your own website, you have free rein to package as creatively as you like. That said, you can still offer a unique experience on stricter marketplaces. After you have the appropriate packing materials, like bubble mailers or sturdy boxes, what can you add to set yourself apart from competitors and create a fun experience for customers? What unique addition would make sense with your brand persona? I recently ordered balloons from a small, party supplies seller on Etsy. When the package arrived, I opened the bubble mailer and confetti came out. It was fun, surprising, and totally consistent with the brand. Creating a genuinely fun shipping experience for me set this seller apart from her competitors, and demonstrated to me that she thinks about her customers from start to finish. I loved it, and I will definitely purchase from her again.

5. Make all returns free
We know not every seller is able to make free shipping work with their budget. Free, unconditional returns is a great alternative to offering unlimited free shipping, and benefits the customer and retailer alike. Here’s why:  a reported 49% of consumers believe shipping costs to be the most exasperating aspect of returning an item. Another 88% of consumers would rate free return shipping as either “important” or “very important” when making purchase decisions, and 82% of another test group affirm that they would complete an online purchase if the seller offers free return shipping. Making returns easy and free for the buyer is a great way to nail customer service and promote buyer trust. And if a buyer does make a return, they are more than likely going to shop from you again in the future, if your return shipping is free.

Offering exceptional customer service through your shipping process doesn’t just impress customers – it encourages future purchases, stewards repeat buyers and helps you win out over competitors. Get creative with branding, be generous with returns and communicate with buyers that you’re a reliable and considerate retailer. If you can nail this, you will reap the benefits. Happy selling!

ecomdash_logo_smallEcomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for e-commerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end e-commerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.

How to Offer Free Shipping on a Small Budget

May 25th, 2016 Comments off

267203_Blog-Free-Shipping-on-a-Small-Business-BudgetJust as e-commerce evolves, so do its shoppers. Online shoppers span across generations, interests and buying habits. Though we all tend to browse for products a little differently, there’s something just about all online buyers look for when shopping – free shipping. In fact, they almost demand it. One comScore report found the following data regarding free shipping for e-commerce orders:

– 81% of consumers would rate free shipping as a top priority
– 93% of shoppers would take some type of action (add more items to their cart, search online for promo codes, etc.) to qualify for free shipping
– 58% would add items to their cart to qualify for free shipping
– 83% are willing to wait two extra days for delivery, if the item would ship for free

separate report by comScore found that Free Shipping Day 2012 helped increase sales the final week before Christmas by 16% compared to the previous year. That was a boost kicked off from a single day promotion. Imagine what your profit margins would look like if you offered free shipping all the time.

Great stats aside, a small business doesn’t have the budget that an enterprise might, and therefore may not be able to offer free shipping year round. Free shipping is too great an opportunity to pass up, and even small businesses can partake in it. Here are five ways a small e-commerce business can offer free shipping without breaking the bank.

Offer free shipping during holidays
Allowing free shipping during the holidays is a great alternative to offering it all the time, and won’t cost you beyond what you’re able to spend. Orders will be higher during this season, which will help eat the cost of shipping goods for free. Another option is to offer free shipping during a specific holiday. One-day sales and free shipping incentives are popular on Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve/Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Set a minimum cart value
Target does it. There’s no reason you can’t, too. Determine the minimum order value a buyer must purchase in order to qualify for free shipping, and offer it under those conditions. A case study found that when one company added a minimum shopping cart threshold to earn free shipping, orders increased by 90%. Moreover, the average order value also increased by 7.32%. Pull together some numbers to help determine a minimum order value that would work for your business. You need to know:

– Total Orders Received
– Average Order Value
– Average Profit Margin
– Shipping Fees per Order
– Shipping Costs per Order

Once you have these variables, plug them into this calculator, which will tell you your shopping profit. You can then find your minimum shopping cart threshold for free shipping with the following equation:

[(Minimum Cart Value – Average Order Value) x Gross Profit Margin] – Shipping Cost = Minimum Order Value

Plug and play with different estimated Minimum Cart Values to find an order value that works for you.

Offer it to email subscribers
Extending free shipping to customers on your distribution list is essentially creating long-term profits. Subscribers will be the first to be notified of new products, sales, offers and marketing efforts. These customers are already your biggest source of revenue. E-commerce businesses that have 40% of their customers making repeat purchases generate nearly 50% more revenue than other sellers with only 10% of their customers returning. By offering free shipping to your most loyal buyers, you’re encouraging them to make new purchases and shop from you long-term.

Free shipping for returns
More and more online businesses are implementing free returns as part of their return policy. Zappos offers free, unconditional returns for all products (in addition to free shipping). Offering free returns works for small businesses for two reasons: 1) you will pay for return postage only sparingly, and 2) free returns create buyer trust and encourage shoppers to follow through with a purchase…which they likely won’t return, anyways. Researchers found that businesses that offered free shipping on returns saw sales increase by up to 357%. Even if you have to bite the bullet and pay for a few returns, you’ll more than make up that cost with better profits.

Make it available for certain products
If you don’t have room in your budget to offer free shipping on all your products, try making it available for just a few. Have any product you need to move in order to make room for new inventory? Offer to ship it for free. In industry speak, this is called order-level shipping. Offer free shipping on best sellers, sale items, or products that will be popular during a given event. If you’re an online florist, you could offer free shipping on red roses in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Or, if you ordered some new stock and want to test its popularity, advertise it with a free-shipping guarantee. You’ll incentivize people to buy it. If it does well, you’ll feel safe ordering a large quantity from your supplier.

Free shipping positively impacts profit margins and customer relations. It is increasingly becoming the norm across e-commerce industries, and shoppers are growing to expect it. Offer free shipping in a modified way that makes sense for your business, and you can reap the benefits too.

ecomdash_logo_smallEcomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for e-commerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end e-commerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.

 

Survey: 68 Percent of E-Commerce Sellers to Offer Free Shipping on More Products in 2011 Holiday Season

November 18th, 2011 Comments off

For e-commerce retailers, the holiday season can often be the most profitable time of the year. Savvy e-commerce sellers are offering more and more promotions to further increase profits and stay competitive, and this year’s Stamps.com survey shows that free shipping promotions can do just that.

In this, our second e-commerce shipping survey, free shipping shows a surge with 68 percent of sellers planning to offer the promotion on more products during the coming 2011 holiday season — a 15 percent increase from the 2010 holiday season. Also, 54 percent of sellers plan to offer free shipping promotions on 50 percent or more of their holiday collection, up from 43 percent in last year’s holiday season.

What’s the benefit of offering free shipping? Of survey respondents, 52 percent said the promotion increases their average revenue per order by $8 or more.

SECOND ANNUAL STAMPS.COM E-COMMERCE SHIPPING SURVEY RESULTS
The survey was conducted from October 31 to November 4, 2011 and was sent to current Stamps.com customers who operate an e-commerce store. Read on to learn more about the significant findings.

E-commerce sellers say free shipping increases average revenue per order
Stamps.com reports that 52 percent of e-commerce sellers who use free shipping as a promotion see their average revenue per order increase by $8 or more.

question8 

E-commerce sellers are offering free shipping on more products in 2011 vs. 2010
Of survey respondents, 68 percent of e-commerce sellers are planning to offer the promotion on more products during the 2011 holiday season, up from 53 percent in last year’s holiday season.

question3 In fact, 54 percent of respondents will be offering free shipping on more than 50 percent of their holiday catalog — an 11 percent increase from the 2010 holiday season.

question4

Approximately 1 out of 2 customers expect free shipping
Of survey respondents, approximately half find that customers expect free shipping during the holidays.

question10 

The holiday sales rush slows the productivity of shippers
Of survey respondents, 20 percent of e-commerce sellers are able to process and ship orders the same day during the holiday season, displaying a 5 percent decrease from non-holiday periods.

question14

The free shipping trend hasn’t affected product return policies
Of survey respondents, 66 percent said the customer is 100 percent responsible for shipping costs on returns.

question12 

International markets contribute to profits
Of survey respondents, 82 percent project that at least some of their holiday revenue will come from international purchases, while 11 percent project international sales to account for more than a third of their holiday sales.

question13

 Why do e-commerce sellers choose not to offer free shipping?

Of survey respondents who are not offering free shipping, 44 percent said they lose money from the promotion, while 11 percent said the promotion does not increase sales.

question2

Are customers required to reach a minimum order amount to receive free shipping?
Of survey respondents, 51 percent said they do not require customers to reach a minimum order amount, while the remainder was unevenly split between e-commerce sellers who do require it of customers and those who require it on only on select products.

question5

How Much Do Customers Have to Spend to Get Free Shipping?
Of survey respondents who require a minimum order amount to qualify for free shipping, 55 percent require an average order size of $50 or more.

question6

Competitiveness plays a small role in free shipping
Of survey respondents, less than half (43%) said their competitors’ free shipping promotions affect when they decide to offer free shipping.

question9

 Seller’s own websites are king when it comes to holiday sales
Of survey respondents, a seller’s own website is the leading source of online sales during the holidays at 39%.  Second was eBay at 31%, followed by Amazon at 17%. 

question17

“Free Shipping” Holiday Promos Can Eat Web Retailer Margins

November 27th, 2009 3 comments

If there is one thing that online consumers respond to besides sales during the holiday season, it’s free shipping.  free_shipping4A 2008 survey by Forrester Research showed that 75 percent of shoppers prefer to buy from sites that offer free shipping, a jump from 61 percent in 2007.  This holiday season, 73 percent of consumers told Google that they would be taking advantage of free shipping at their favorite web retailers when buying gifts for friends and family.

Free shipping may entice sales, but the shipping itself isn’t free for the web retailer mailing the products.  Instead of the shipping costs being paid by customer, the web retailer must now absorb those additional costs from their profit margin.  During a down economy, it makes sense for ecommerce site owners to look for the most economical shipping option to fulfill your customers’ holiday wishes of free shipping.  Where can you find a reliable, yet inexpensive carrier to handle your shipping needs this holiday season?

The good old US Postal Service, of course.

“FREE SHIPPING” cost you less with the USPS and Stamps.com
How can you save money by shipping with the USPS through Stamps.com?

  • 10 percent off on package insurance
  • Insure packages up to $2,500 in value
  • Up to 11 percent off Priority Mail retail rates
  • Up to 8 percent off on International Mail classes
  • Free Delivery Confirmation for Priority Mail packages

And, unlike UPS and FedEx, the US Postal Service doesn’t charge for residential deliveries or fuel surcharges.  The US Postal Service also offers free packaging supplies for Priority Mail packages and will pick up parcels from your business for no charge.

Ecommerce made easy… Import Sales Order Data Directly from eBay, Amazon and More
Stamps.com is a great option for web retailers who want to take full advantage of the cost savings the US Postal Service can deliver.   Stamps.com software even allows web retailers to import sales order data directly from popular online marketplaces including eBay, Yahoo! Stores, Amazon.com, Google Checkout or PayPal Shops.   Once the data is imported into Stamps.com, the shipping manager can batch print up to 1,000 shipping labels at a time or pick and choose individual labels to print.  The Stamps.com software will also match all the address data to the USPS database to prevent any undeliverable addresses prior to the package being sent out.

For web retailers using Amazon and eBay, Stamps.com will also post- back the package tracking data and costs into the sellers account.

It’s time to rethink your holiday shipping.
When retailers combine the services of the USPS with the ease and  convenience of Stamps.com, they have a powerful tool that reduces the  impact FREE SHIPPING offers can have on their bottom line.

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