Should Your Online Store Offer Free Shipping and Returns?

By Lyndsay Mcgregor

Online shoppers want fast, free shipping, but not all e-commerce businesses are cut out to offer it.

Once considered a perk, most people now expect free delivery and returns as standard—so much so that several studies have indicated that shipping costs are a leading cause of cart abandonment.

For online sellers, however, free shipping is anything but free. Even Amazon spent $16.2 billion on shipping in 2016—that’s nearly 6 percent of the company’s revenue and its biggest line item after cost of sales.

So, the question isn’t if your online store should offer free shipping, but whether and when your business can afford it.

What to consider before jumping on the free shipping bandwagon

Free shipping might increase your sales, but it could kill your profit margins
A recent Walker Sands survey found that nine in 10 respondents named free shipping as the top incentive that would encourage them to shop online more often.

Before diving in, small sellers need to figure out whether it makes more sense to absorb the cost of shipping and handling or raise their product prices slightly to cover the charges. Either option will have an impact on profit margin, but it’s important to consider whether the long-term gains will outweigh any short-term losses.

Here’s another way to look at it: what’s the lifetime value of any new customers acquired due to your free-shipping offer? Is the ROI worth the upfront cost?

Your returns could skyrocket
Analysts estimate that roughly one-third of online purchases are returned—and researchers recently discovered that free shipping results in higher rates of return.

The reason: free shipping encourages people to spend more than usual, which evidently leads to buyer’s remorse. In fact, shoppers bought and returned so much from one particular retailer that periodically ran free shipping promotions that profits plunged 56 percent during those times.

Not to mention, while those boomeranged sales can be resold, much of their value is lost as they move through the supply chain—and selling less-than-perfect products could ruin your reputation.

You could be leaving money on the table
Free delivery might be exactly what’s required to hook shoppers already intent on spending, but it’s worth weighing up what you might be losing by offering it to customers who would have bought from you in the first place. That being said, an efficient and hassle-free returns policy could keep customers coming back time and time again.

How do some bigger retailers handle free shipping?

Amazon customers receive free shipping if their order includes at least $25 worth of eligible items across all categories, delivery of which will take place five to eight business days after all products are available to ship. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime members get free shipping with two-day delivery on eligible items, no minimum spend required.

Walmart offers free two-day shipping on 2 million items on orders that are more than $35.

Target customers who pay for their online order using the retailer’s RedCard get free shipping when they spend Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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