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Free Shipping?? Offered it to your online customers?

By December 18, 2015

You have 100% confidence in your product. The price can’t be beat.  Customer service is off the charts.  You receive a customer’s order and prepare products for shipping.  And then it happens…the shipping process begins, and this is where your control ends.  Or does it?

Shipping can easily make or break a relationship with your customers.  It can have a huge effect on your bottom-line.  It can also be what turns your customers off completely before they even complete a transaction.  What are steps you can take to ensure your customer has a great product experience from beginning to end?

Free Shipping Blog Refund Retriever

Free Shipping:  Do or Don’t

I’ll be honest, as a shopper, free shipping is a major factor in my online purchases.  In fact, the first thing I do on Amazon is filter by Prime eligible.  Other sites will instantly lose my business if shipping costs are too high.  Why?  I know there is a great chance that I can find the same or similar product from a company who does offer free or discounted shipping. In fact, a June 2014 study from UPS and comScore showed that 58% of shoppers will abandon their cart if shipping costs are too high.

There is even a nation Free Shipping Day that was started in 2008!  This year it is Friday, December 18, 2015.  Many retailers take advantage of this, just search Twitter for #FreeShippingDay.

Kep in mind FREE shipping does not necessarily mean FAST shipping.  I am willing to wait a little longer to receive an item if it keeps shipping costs to a minimum, or better yet, means shipping is free.  According to a recent article on, I’m not alone on this.  The article claims that 88% of shoppers prefer free to fast shipping – favoring free shipping over  5-7 days rather than paying a shipping fee to receive items in just a couple of days.  Moreover, 60% of customers were willing to increase the number of items in their cart to qualify for free shipping.

The obvious disadvantage to businesses here is cost.

There are ways to balance the need for higher web traffic and purchases with the cost of shipping.  Here are a few:

Free shipping – with an *:  It might not make sense to offer free shipping on ALL of your products.  Obviously this would vary depending on what you’re selling.  However, take a look at specific products where you might want to boost sales.  Would it help to offer free shipping to start moving these products?  Or offer discounted rates or free shipping on specific items only. Alternatively, providing free shipping for minimal order amounts or a minimum number of items may help to offset your costs as well.  Knowing the weight and basic shipping costs of popular items will also help determine where it makes sense to offer shipping price breaks.  We’ll talk more about this later.

Pass the Buck: While you may not want to spread shipping costs equally over all products, it may behoove you to include shipping costs (or at least a portion) in some of the higher end, higher cost items.  Keeping smaller items at a lower price will still allow you to be competitive where shipping costs would be lower anyway.  Passing on the shipping costs to consumers on the higher end items might not sound ideal, but this is where the lure of “FREE SHIPPING” can come into play.   Think about it:  would you be more inclined to purchase something if the cost was a little higher than other businesses, but the shipping was free?  Therefore making the total purchase LESS than the lower priced item plus shipping?  I would.

Do Your Homework:  Step back a minute and actually look at your packaging supplies.  Do you really need a 12x12x12 box to ship a product the size of a pack of gum?  A quick search on the internet could provide you with a variety of options that may be better suited for your particular product.  The last thing you want is for customers to think they’re paying – one way or another – for wasteful shipping.

Zone In:  Study your shipping data.  Are you primarily shipping to or from certain zones?  Perhaps you can offer free shipping to closer zones or customers inside your particular zone.  How do you do this?  Glad you asked.  This is another topic we’ll touch on in just a bit.


Other Alternatives to Keep Costs Down If Free Isn’t an Option

Real-time Shipping Quotes: It’s possible to set up real-time quotes in some shopping carts.  (Shopify, one of our partners, allows this function!).  While this may not be the cheapest option for consumers, it does give the customer a chance to see what the actual cost is.  Knowing that they are paying to only cover actual cost as opposed to padding your wallet may actually be considered a ‘win’ for the customer.  Plus, it helps take out the guesswork on your end.

Flat or Average Rate: Perhaps your products are similar in size and weight and there is not much variety in your shipping costs.  Charging customers an average amount of your shipping costs might be an easily calculated route for you to take.  In other words, a flat rate.  However, what if you have a large variety of inventory and your products vary greatly in size, shape, and weight?  Maybe you want to take a look at your average cost per pound shipped and use this to determine what shipping rate you will charge.

Regardless of what option you choose, the best thing for you to do to keep shipping costs at a minimum is to know your data.  It’s hard to choose where to cut costs if you don’t know where you’re overspending.  Likewise, are you getting the best rates?  Could you save yourself and your customers money by finding a better shipping method or carrier?

Enter: Refund Retriever!!

Cost Per Pound Shipped: One option is to use your average cost per pound shipped to determine how much to add to your sale price for each item.  You know how much each item in your store weighs, and you know the dimensions.  With Refund Retriever, you have access to see what your cost per pound shipped is for each UPS or FedEx service.

cost per pound shipped

Say we are selling a 10 pound kettlebell, and it will be delivered to a house.  The kettlebell costs us $5.25 wholesale.  If we use FedEx Home Delivery it will cost us about $11.26 on average looking at our report above.  The cost to the customer’s door will be $16.51 total, so we can determine the sale price.  While this might not work in every situation, it is a very simple example or easy way to get started.

Zone Charts: Where are the majority of your packages going?  What is the average cost for that zone?  If you know that 45% of your packages are shipped to Zone 5 and the average cost of your package to that zone is $15.51, you can use this to pad your sale price to cover the majority of your shipping costs across the board.  I know of a few companies that use this rule,  and all shipping costs are eventually covered.

Refund Retriever Zone Distribution Report UPS FedEx



You obviously need to go with whatever shipping option is best for your business model.  What will the cost of shipping be versus the cost of losing a sale?  In any business, the best solution is to stay informed.  Refund Retriever provides our customers with ample data to give you confidence in your decision making.  That’s one option every customer deserves.


Brian Gibbs

Author Brian Gibbs

More posts by Brian Gibbs

Brian Gibbs | President of Refund Retriever

Brian Gibbs founded Refund Retriever in 2006 while running his first eBay based business and seeing the shortcomings of other shipment auditing companies. Refund Retriever's primary focus is FedEx and UPS parcel invoice auditing. After graduating from Texas A&M University in 2001, he then graduated from the University of Houston in 2004 with a JD and MBA. Gibbs has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur and other publications discussing parcel auditing, shipping, e-commerce and more. Learn more at or call (800) 441-8085 for more information.

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