Free shipping is a type of promotion offered by retailers in which the cost of shipping is included in the price of the product, or the shipping fee is waived for the customer. This can be an attractive incentive for customers, as it can reduce the overall cost of their purchase.

For savvy shoppers, free shipping is the ultimate reward. By encouraging orders without additional delivery fees, stores are inviting customers to take advantage of added value with no additional costs beyond the cost of the product. From a business perspective, offering free shipping is two-fold: increase sales and customer loyalty by providing bonus value and potentially make up for the expense of shipping through higher order values and long-term client satisfaction. It’s essential to consider the cost of shipping in pricing strategies to maintain profitability.

The Pros & Cons of Free Shipping

👍 The Pros of Free Shipping

Offering free shipping can be a way for a business to attract customers and increase sales. It can also help to build customer loyalty and create a sense of value for the customer. Additionally, by offering free shipping, businesses can potentially offset the cost of shipping by increasing the average order value and customer lifetime value.

With free shipping, businesses can catch the eye of potential customers. It may encourage them to make a purchase, creating an air of appreciation for the buyer and generating customer fidelity. Moreover, since delivery costs have been accounted for, businesses are likely to increase their average order value and customer lifetime value.

Free shipping is an effective tool in business marketing; it has the potential to incentivize buyers and amplify the value of products and services. Plus, customers will feel enticed to make more purchases when they realize they won’t need to pay extra for delivery fees.

Furthermore, free shipping levels the playing field between small-scale merchants and big retailers. Small businesses can stand out by offering free shipping, which makes it easier for customers on the hunt for a bargain.

Free shipping is not always advantageous for businesses to remain profitable. Accounting for the costs of boxing, packaging, and delivering the product, it’s paramount to maintain a positive net margin. Nevertheless, including the cost of shipping in the product’s price can help to reduce shopping cart abandonment: customers may be surprised by the total cost, which can cause them to abandon their purchase. Offering free shipping can therefore help to minimize this.

👎 The Cons of Free Shipping

From a business point of view, offering free shipping comes with some potential drawbacks. One of the main cons is that it can drive up the cost of goods sold, hurting profitability. Shipping costs can mount quickly, particularly for businesses that sell large or heavy products. Free shipping may not be fiscally feasible if these costs cannot be recovered through higher sales or bigger average order values.

Additionally, offering free shipping may increase the possibility of fraud or chargebacks. When customers are aware of no-cost delivery, they could be more likely to place orders with stolen credit card details or questionably dispute charges.

Giving away free shipping can also raise customer expectations, which is problematic. Once shoppers become used to get free shipping, they may begin to anticipate it as standard and unlikely to shop if it’s not offered. This can be a huge issue for small businesses that often lack the funds to provide free shipping.

Free shipping may lead to increased returns as purchasers may be more inclined to purchase, knowing they can return it free. This can add additional expenses to a business since they have to cover the cost of return shipping and handling.

Lastly, offering free shipping on all orders can also be unfair to customers who live in remote areas or have to pay higher shipping costs. Businesses may need to offer different shipping options or prices based on location to be fair to all customers.

It’s important for businesses to weigh the pros and cons of offering free shipping and ensure that it aligns with their overall pricing and profitability strategy.

How to Offer Free Shipping

If a retailer has already included free standard shipping as a standard offering, there are several ways they can take their free shipping offering to the next level:

  1. Faster shipping: Offering expedited or express shipping options for free can be a way to differentiate the retailer from competitors and provide added value to customers.
  2. Free returns: Offering free returns in addition to free shipping can be a way to provide an even better customer experience and increase customer satisfaction.
  3. Free shipping on all orders, regardless of the order value: Some retailers may set a minimum order value for free shipping, but offering it for all orders regardless of the value can be a way to stand out and attract more customers.
  4. Free shipping worldwide: Some retailers may only offer free shipping within their home country, but expanding the offer to include international shipping can help to attract a global customer base.
  5. Same-day delivery: Some retailers may offer free shipping but not same-day delivery, offering this service can be a way to stand out and provide an added convenience for customers.


Is Free Shipping Really Free?

When it comes to free shipping, nothing is actually free-of-charge. Retailers are forced to face a difficult decision: take a hit to their profit margins, raise the product price, or devise a special promotion or loyalty program that covers the cost of shipping. In other words, making free shipping available can be an expensive venture for store owners. 

How Long Does Free Shipping Take?

Most free standard shipping options take three to five business days, though the exact timeline may depend on variables such as the company delivering your package, potential delays, and your retailer’s agreement with their handler.