What You Need to Know About Free Shipping Day

EW Free Shipping DayIn the past, free shipping was thought of as a reward to shoppers during the holiday season … but these days, more and more, it’s not as much appreciated as expected. For e-commerce site owners like yourself, this means you need to offer – or at least seriously consider – free shipping in order to stay competitive during this busy season. One option to consider: Free Shipping Day.

What is Free Shipping Day?

Free Shipping Day is an annual pre-determined date on which scores of retailers offer free shipping with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. Now considered a one-day online shopping extravaganza, Free Shipping Day was started in 2008 by freeshipping.org founder Luke Knowles as an effort to make up for the discouraging downturn in holiday sales after Cyber Monday. Online retailers got on board and the media paid attention: Just five years later, Free Shipping Day trumps Black Friday and is head-to-head with Cyber Monday in terms of sales!

This year, Free Shipping Day takes place on December 18. Are you participating? If not, consider these numbers: In 2011, Free Shipping Day brought in more than $1 billion in online sales, with more than 2,600 stores registered on the official Free Shipping Day site.

Why Should I Participate?

Here are a few reasons why you should seriously consider participating:

  • Equal footing with the big players. Fortune 500 company or boutique craft shop, your site is included with all Free Shipping Day participants – and it won’t cost you a penny. Just by the company you’ll keep, you may be getting exposure that would be unheard of without a six-figure advertising budget!
  • All the cool kids do it. You don’t want your competition to be raking in the sales as you sit on the sidelines.
  • Sales! That’s what Free Shipping Day is all about. More and more, customers are coming to rely on Free Shipping Day deals – and they could be your customers.

Will I Make Money?

It’s true that free shipping can cut into your profits if you don’t plan ahead. But for many e-commerce site owners, the increase in customer confidence – they’re much less likely to abandon shopping carts when free shipping is offered – and uptick in sales can more than make up for those shipping costs. Here are a few strategies to keep in your business in the black:

  • Set a minimum amount. It’s fine to protect your sales margins by mandating that free shipping will in effect only for orders over a certain amount; just make sure that minimum is low enough to keep shoppers from bailing.
  • Weigh your packages – and your shipping options. Do your homework regarding the most cost-effective methods that will also get your packages to their destination by that all-important December 24 cutoff. For example, the USPS offers the most competitive rates for most packages that weigh fewer than 5 pounds.
  • Promote, promote, promote. Don’t rely on only freeshippingday.com to get the word out – use social media and contact past customers to give them a heads-up.

Of course, none of these tips will guarantee that you’ll come out as ahead as you’d like to – but they’re tried-and-true methods that have worked with other freeshippingday.com participants so well-worth considering.

How Do I Get on Board?

If you’d like to jump on the Free Shipping Day bandwagon, getting started is simple – and remember, any store can participate!

  1. Before you do anything else, you must be prepared to offer free shipping on ALL orders in order to participate in this official movement; you might also consider a blanket discount (such as 10%) in addition to free shipping to really draw in the shoppers.
  2. Fill out the merchant sign-up form on freeshippingday.com and wait for a confirmation email. The form asks for the basics, like your website and store name, but also gives you the opportunity to use your own words to describe what sets your shop apart. You’ll be able to specify your offer and input any coupon codes you’d like to offer, as well as return and delivery guarantee information.
  3. Keep in mind that even if you previously took part in Free Shipping Day, you do need to re-register every year.
  4. Update your own site with any details that won’t be on the freeshippingday.com site. While the site does a good job of making the shopping experience attractive and easy for customers, it can’t get into specifics beyond what you include in the sign-up form, so be sure to highlight additional information on your own site’s home page.
  5. Once you’re signed up, grab an official Free Shipping Day Badge to put on your site; freeshippingday.com provides the HTML code for a variety of badges and sizes.

What Happens After I Sign Up?

Wait for December 18! At 12:01 a.m. EST that day, your logo and store information will appear on freeshippingday.com. In the meantime, make sure you’ve taken stock of your merchandise, packaging materials and filler, so you can keep up with the demand.

It’s also a good idea to check your inventory sooner than later. If your product quantities are limited, you can contact freeshippingday.com to end your offer at a specific time.

The Bottom Line

In just five years, Free Shipping Day has become an annual event that savvy shops and shoppers alike plan for and benefit from. There’s still time to get in on this year’s event – and time to see some nice profits for the end of 2013!