Offering your online shoppers “free shipping” gives your ecommerce destination a considerable competitive edge and goes a long way to please your customers. Here’s a quick list of six independent or combinable tactics to work free shipping and exclusive discounts into your ecommerce planning: 

  1. Reward Loyalty
    True brand loyalty doesn’t come for free and isn’t easily earned or retained. Rewarding desired behaviors is one small component of building loyalty. Examples of this could be users signing up for your email marketing program or sharing your products on social media. By nature, email-marketing programs are built to retain consumers over long periods of time. But, this type of messaging requires the exchange of personal information to complete (at minimum, an email address). By leveraging “free shipping” as an incentive for this exchange, you’ll increase sign ups and create a marketing bridge to repeat purchases in the future.
  2. Leverage Thresholds
    Thresholds leverage the concept of time, quantity or cost. In fact, it has been found that 39 percent of consumers will purchase enough just to earn free shipping. Threshold shipping is a great way to upsell the shopping cart and demonstrates perceived value. 
  3. Test Your Approach
    When uncertainty strikes, A/B testing is a great way to determine the most efficient course of action. It can also help you gain valuable insights that allow you to adjust your marketing messages and shipping approach. 
  4. Cash in on Social Currency
    Social engagement is a fantastic way to promote your products organically within users’ social media feeds. For example, show your user true shipping costs (which they are welcomed to pay) next to a call-to-action to “share” their purchase on social media to earn “free shipping.”

    When considering the costs associated with targeted social media advertising, this method (similar to “rewarding loyalty” above) also helps to offset marketing costs. Your customers are encouraged to organically demonstrate brand stewardship within their social sphere; individuals with a high propensity to be attracted to similar products and/or be positively influenced by their peer to make a similar purchase for themselves.  
  5. Count On Coupon Codes
    Forcing consumers to enter a free shipping code can be an effective way to reduce profit margin erosion by assuming some level of “breakage” will occur (meaning that qualified consumers would fail to enter the code at checkout). 
  6. Retarget Cart Abandoners
    While highly effective, many of the methods used to do this can be costly and time consuming. Counteract cart abandonment and close the sale by offering “Free Shipping” or reduced rates after a certain period of time has passed in the shopping session, or when users attempt to exit the shopping cart before completing their purchase.  

Moving Ahead
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but having a deep understanding of your shoppers’ expectations and behaviors, combined with the specifics of your online business, will help you decide which of these tactics are most effective to leverage. When you do decide to offer incentives to your shoppers, be sure to always clearly communicate value and consider ways to continue to stay in touch with your shoppers over time to encourage repeat purchases.


Liz Castillo is Director of Digital Strategy at Coyne PR