Consumers love free shipping promotions, and many have come to expect such offers from merchants—especially during the holidays. And return shipping policies may be just as important as free shipping offers, according to a survey conducted last fall.
FreeShipping.com, a subscription based shopping program specializing in, of course, free shipping offers, polled 314 of its members between Oct. 13 and Nov. 16. It found that 88% of respondents rated free return shipping as important, or very important when making a purchasing decision.
The findings aren’t too surprising, given that FreeShipping.com members are in the group because they want free shipping. But anything merchants can do to make the shopping experience easier and less risky can be good for business, says Tom Caporaso, president/chief operating officer of FreeShipping.com.
“It’s extremely important for customers to be able to replicate the offline experience of walking back into a store, with item in hand, and returning it,” Caporaso says. Customers will likely continue to shop with those merchants offering free returns, he says, “since an unexpected complication with their order becomes far less complicated, and fosters goodwill when the merchant picks up the cost of getting it right.”
That’s not to say that every merchant needs to offer free shipping. “The reality is that free shipping offers are expensive, and site-wide free shipping offers can be difficult to justify economically,” Caporaso says.
“Free shipping offers bring consumers back to spend more and more often. The difference is in how well the company can absorb the increased cost of covering the shipping charges.” By offering free shipping to a select group of consumers, Caporaso says, “companies can strike a balance between fostering goodwill with their best customers and ensuring repeat purchases.”