How to offer fast and free shipping without killing your profits
Let’s address the elephant in the room: free shipping is rarely free.
And yet, fast, affordable shipping has become the norm—thanks, in part, to marketplaces like Amazon that are setting the bar high.
The silver lining: customers don’t always require “fast” and “free” at the same time. Free shipping could mean standard five-to-seven-day shipping, whereas express shipping could require an additional cost.
Nevertheless, “free shipping” is always a plus when it comes to sweetening the deal for your customers. Here are ways that you can turn fast, free shipping into a reality and elevate your eCommerce shipping operations even as an SMB.
How to offer free shipping: 6 popular strategies
Offering free shipping is one of the best ways to get customers to complete their sales. The downside, of course, is that it can be detrimental to your profit margins to offer across the board. However, the below strategies can help you to pad your profits.
01. Roll shipping costs into your product price
One of the most common practices involves adding shipping price to your item cost. The challenge with this approach is that your product price may become less competitive, but the idea of “free shipping” could still attract more buyers to your product page.
02. Offer free shipping after a certain threshold
Offer free shipping as an incentive for larger cart sizes. For example, you could offer free shipping for orders over $75. Wix eCommerce makes setting it simple for you to set up this shipping rule for your store.
03. Offer free shipping on certain items
Higher-ticket items—or higher-margin items—may be more suitable for free shipping than other items in your catalog. For this reason, you could consider absorbing the shipping fees for certain SKUs or product categories.
04. Offer free shipping at certain times of the year
Alternatively, if you want to offer free shipping on all of your items, you could leverage limited-time promotions to drive conversions and avoid paying for free shipping all the time. You could run this type of promotion once a week, once a month, on weekends, or during special holidays—whatever makes the most sense for your business.
05. Offer free shipping for certain regions
If you sell internationally, then you may only want to reserve free shipping for the U.S., where you can nab the best shipping rates. Even within the U.S., there may be certain shipping zones—such as areas where you can offer local delivery services—where free shipping makes more sense than others.
6. Offer free shipping for a subset of customers
Whether you offer free shipping to first-time customers only, or to those who subscribe to your newsletter—free shipping can be used as an incentive to keep buyers coming back.
Which shipping service should you use?
When it comes to finding the quickest way to ship your orders (without breaking the bank), choosing the right shipping service is half the battle. While USPS, UPS, and FedEx offer quality affordable services for many of the same parcels, there are times when one carrier wins out above the others.
Best for small, light parcels: USPS
Since USPS is the national postal carrier, it can deliver to every address in the U.S. every day.
That said, they tend to be better for smaller parcels and thick envelopes. Shipping parcels weighing less than 16 ounces will always be most affordable with USPS First Class Mail. Unfortunately, First Class Mail recently slowed by about a day.
However, Priority Mail is just as speedy as ever. And when parcels weigh under four to five pounds, domestic shipments are very affordable for three-day delivery timeframes. Note that delivery can sometimes take up to five days.
Best for larger parcels: UPS
While the USPS deals largely with smaller parcels, UPS handles packages more frequently. (UPS even stands for “United Parcel Service.”)
UPS Ground typically takes one to three days to reach its final delivery destination. Because UPS deals more with larger parcels, they offer rates that can be hard to beat for parcels weighing over four pounds. Their rates are even better when you ship cross-country to farther-away shipping zones.
Best for express shipping: FedEx
While UPS and USPS offer great express options, FedEx has carved out a space for this.
If your customers are paying for day-definite shipping and want their parcels in one to two days, FedEx is a great option. Their international network of planes, truck fleets, and facilities make them a choice for merchants, customers, and even other carriers. For example, USPS utilizes FedEx and UPS planes for some express shipments and international deliveries.
4 tips to make fulfillment faster and more efficient
Many runners train to jump off the line quicker—the idea being that if you have a quicker start, you have a greater chance of taking the lead and reaching the finish line faster.
This is true of eCommerce too. The longer orders go unfulfilled, the less time you have to deliver them. However, if you ship them out more quickly, you don’t have to worry as much about express shipping options.
With all that in mind, here’s how you can get orders out the door faster.
01. Reduce manual entry and automate shipping
Minimize manual data entry in your warehouses. Not only does manual order logging or shipping updates eat up precious time, but it can also lead to human error.
The best way to avoid manual entry is to use automation tools to apply shipping configurations to your orders. For example, Wix eCommerce provides one place to set and manage your shipping policies. Through its integration with apps like ShipStation, Wix further streamlines the fulfillment process by making sure that any customer preferences (such as their preferred shipping service) are carried over into your shipping app.
In this scenario, ShipStation would instantly apply the appropriate service, package type, insurance, and even different email notifications to the customer order. These automation rules are based on criteria ranging from the sales channel, order weight, customer, and much more.
02. Use a shipping program
A quick fulfillment time is crucial for fast and affordable delivery. Luckily, shipping software like ShipStation can help you reduce manual entry and give you automation tools to make shipping simple. Its integration with Wix eCommerce further enables you to streamline your processes by automatically syncing store orders and preventing duplicate work.
This is especially helpful if you manage a multichannel selling strategy. When you start growing beyond a few orders and into marketplaces, hosted carts, and/or social media, you need to find ways to consolidate your volume.
Otherwise, your processes can rapidly begin to deteriorate. This gets compounded with manual entry, and something that should have only taken a few minutes may take several hours.
03. Bulk print labels for all orders
Bulk printing shipping labels is crucial for speedy fulfillment. Regardless of if your customer places an order from your Wix site or a marketplace, you need to be able to ship them the label and post tracking information back to the sales channel.
This is another way that shipping software can help you out. When you’re fulfilling orders, you just want to get your orders out the door and to the customers. You don’t want to be slowed down by tasks like having to generate a new shipping label for every order.
ShipStation’s batch printing lets you select up to 500 orders at once and generate all labels at one time. Removing additional clicks and saving time are just as important as saving money on shipping. Luckily, there are ways to get discounts on carrier rates as well.
04. Shop for the best rates
Make sure to compare rates across multiple carriers to ensure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck. Check what types of discounts your shipping software offers. Since these platforms deal so heavily with carriers and serve as affiliates, you can typically receive massive discounts simply by signing up.
Rate shopping additionally ensures that you are calibrating costs. Note that when the holiday season hits, carrier surcharges can drastically change which carrier offers the best rates. Be on the lookout for new or seasonal surcharges throughout the year and how they may impact your business.
Focus more on what’s behind the curtain
The reality is that offering free and express shipping for all orders can be difficult to swing. But fortunately, there are ways to affordably streamline fulfillment and shipping. Reducing overhead costs, packing time, and shipping rates serve to pad your profit margins and attract more customers.
Senior Copywriter, ShipStation
James Messer is a senior copywriter at ShipStation, a Wix app partner.