Free shipping is a delivery service provided by online and brick-and-mortar retailers where customers are not charged an additional fee for shipping and handling. This popular sales strategy aims to attract more shoppers, increasing the likelihood of them completing their purchases rather than abandoning their shopping carts.

Of course, shipping can’t actually be free. The offer means that the retailer absorbs the cost of delivering the product to the customer. Despite this additional cost on the business’s side, the strategy increases their competitiveness in the market, making them a more appealing choice.

Key Takeaways

  • Free deliveries are a retail strategy where customers are not charged an additional fee for shipping and handling. Retailers absorb these costs to attract more customers and increase their competitiveness in the market.
  • Specific conditions apply, such as minimum purchase requirements, membership in a loyalty program, geographical restrictions, or others.
  • Retailers offer free delivery to attract customers, stay competitive, enhance customer experience, promote specific products, reduce cart abandonment, and drive repeat business.
  • Despite the benefits, it can be challenging for businesses to absorb shipping costs. It may not be feasible for small businesses to offer free deliveries for all products.
  • Customers appreciate free delivery for reasons such as cost savings, simplicity and transparency, the opportunity to experiment, more value for their money, and it feeling like a reward.
  • The deal can be provided in various ways such as threshold offers, membership-based free deliveries, limited-time promotions, no-charge shipping with an upgrade option, only for select items, in-store pickup, free returns shipping, and location-based.

What Does Free Shipping Mean?

While no-cost shipping appeals to customers, it usually comes with certain conditions that vary from retailer to retailer. These conditions may include a minimum purchase requirement, membership in a loyalty program, or restrictions to specific geographical areas. Such strategies help businesses manage the cost of offering free shipping while retaining the advantage as a selling point. 


Note: A zero shipping fee can encourage customers to buy more, knowing they won’t incur additional costs beyond the product price.

Why? That’s simple. As mentioned above, cost-free delivery is typically tied to some special conditions. For example, if that condition is customers hitting a minimum shopping cart threshold, they’ll be incentivized to buy more products at once so that they’re delivered for free.

The Impact of Free Shipping on E-commerce

No-cost delivery has evolved from a competitive advantage to an expectation today, significantly influencing online shopping behaviors. According to a 2021 Consumer Trends Report from JungleScout, 80% of consumers expect free shipping if they purchase a certain amount of products. Moreover, 66% think no-charge delivery should be given for all online orders.

Modern customers are often ready to walk away if they must pay for shipping. For example, the same report states that 48% of consumers will simply abandon their shopping carts if they have shipping costs. Even if 0 shipping fees involve spending more on products than they otherwise would have, 78% of consumers will do so. 


Tip: Brick-and-mortar stores aren’t out of the game either, as 27% of shoppers will buy in-store if only to avoid shipping costs. This is a top reason for businesses with physical locations to offer in-store and curbside pickup for orders reserved online.

Why Do Retailers Offer Free Shipping?

No-charge shipping attracts customers and can encourage them to complete an online purchase. This fulfillment option is particularly influential in the modern retail environment, where the competition for customer loyalty is high.

Stores adopt various strategies when offering free shipping, such as:

  • Setting a minimum purchase requirement for complimentary delivery.
  • Offering shipping with postage included as part of a membership or loyalty program.
  • Providing free shipping during promotional periods.

Brands can also have multiple reasons for having the offer available. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Increase sales: customers could make a purchase that they might otherwise abandon due to additional shipping costs. It can also encourage customers to spend more to meet any minimum purchase requirements.
  • Stay competitive: with substantial online retailers offering complimentary shipping, businesses that don’t could lose customers to their competitors. To meet the expectations of many shoppers, retailers often offer to cover shipping expenses.
  • Enhance customer experience: not having to pay for shipping can lead to higher customer satisfaction, fostering loyalty and repeat purchases.
  • Promote specific products: certain items might be free to ship to clear out inventory or promote a new product. This strategy can increase the visibility and sales of these specific products.
  • Reduce cart abandonment: shipping fees can be quite high in some cases. As the delivery cost is only visible during checkout, it’s a common reason why shoppers abandon their online carts. Retailers can reduce cart abandonment rates and improve conversion by waiving shipping costs.
  • Drive repeat business: customers are more likely to return to a retailer that doesn’t charge for shipping as they feel they are getting better overall value.

Associated Challenges

Complimentary delivery is a double-edged sword from a retailer’s perspective despite the described benefits. Although it can attract more customers and increase sales, the business must absorb the shipping costs. However, many online retailers have found that the increase in sales volume, thanks to the offer, often offsets these costs.

Still, it might be challenging for small businesses to afford cost-free shipping for all products. Alternatively, they may offer it selectively on certain items, during promotional periods, or to specific shipping zones.

Why Do Customers Want Free Shipping?

Customers appreciate this type of delivery for several reasons, such as:

  • Cost savings: cost savings is, of course, the primary reason. Not having to pay for shipping for shipping is a straightforward deal, especially for large or heavy items.
  • Simplicity and transparency: there’s no need to calculate additional fees, making the shopping experience more straightforward and transparent.
  • Increased willingness to experiment: customers may be more willing to try new products, especially if free returns are available. They don’t lose financially if they don’t like what they’ve bought.
  • More value for their money: especially when customers have a big shopping cart, paying for shipping feels like value is being taken away. In contrast, including postage creates the feeling of acknowledging the worth of the customer’s purchase.
  • Differentiating factor: in a crowded online marketplace, shipping can be the deciding factor for choosing one retailer or another. Customers like having an “obvious” choice from which to shop.
  • It feels like a reward: Customers often perceive free shipping as a reward for shopping with a particular brand or spending a certain amount of money. This perceived added value can increase overall buying satisfaction.

Different Types of Free Shipping Offers

No-cost shipping is often part of a broader strategy of reaching more potential customers and giving existing ones another reason to maintain brand loyalty. Generally speaking, a zero shipping fee is attached to scenarios such as:

  • Threshold offers: available once a customer’s purchase exceeds a specified dollar amount. For example, shipping could be free for all orders over $50.
  • Membership-based free shipping: some retailers provide cost-free delivery to members of their loyalty programs or subscription services. For example, to members of a “premium club” of some sort.
  • Limited-time promotions: complimentary shipping can be offered during specific sales or promotional events. For example, a “free shipping day” for the holiday season.
  • No-charge shipping with upgrade option: this involves having standard shipping for free, with the option to upgrade to faster delivery at a cost.
  • Only for select items: the offer might extend only to specific items, often as a way to move inventory. This method can help clear out excess stock and draw attention to particular products.
  • In-store pickup: while not technically a form of shipping, in-store pickup is a popular option for retailers with physical locations. Customers order online and pick up their purchases in-store, eliminating shipping costs.
  • Free returns shipping: in this case, customers may still pay for shipping upfront, but if they choose to return the item, the cost of shipping the item back to the retailer is covered.
  • Location-based: a zero-fee delivery might be offered only for select locations where it is profitable for the retailer to do so. Bear in mind that extending the offer to other locations also means the business has to relocate its inventory, which might not be feasible.
  • Free without same-day: customers could receive their products for free, except for same-day delivery.

Free Shipping Terms and Conditions


Note: Conditions can vary based on the retailer’s business model, products, and overall shipping strategy. 

However, here are some common terms and conditions you might encounter:

  • Minimum purchase requirement: this approach encourages customers to add more items to their carts to qualify for no-cost shipping.
  • Specific geographic areas: retailers often limit no-cost delivery to certain geographic areas due to the varying costs of shipping to different locations. For example, national shipping might be free, while international shipping could be paid.
  • Selected items only: this could be due to the size or weight of the products or part of a strategy to promote specific items or clear out inventory. The items might also be costly enough that the business still profits significantly even if they waive the shipping cost.
  • Membership subscriptions: a subscription to a premium service, such as Amazon Prime, might be required to have postage included in your purchase.
  • Promotional periods: cost-free delivery may be available for a limited time for a special promotion or during peak shopping seasons like the holidays.
  • Shipping method: generally, only the standard shipping option is free. Customers would still have to pay extra for expedited or express shipping.
  • Returns and exchanges: while shipping might be free, return shipping may not be. Some retailers offer free return shipping, but many don’t.
  • Handling fees: Even if shipping is free, some retailers may charge handling fees to cover the costs of packaging and processing the order.

Free Shipping FAQs

What Is Free Shipping?

It’s a method of delivery offered by many online retailers and physical stores where customers do not have to pay any additional charges to have the products delivered to their specified location. Shipping might be free unconditionally or conditionally (minimum purchase account, membership requirements, etc).

What Are the Pros and Cons of Free Shipping?

For Customers

👍 Pros

  • Cost savings: customers save money on shipping costs, making products more affordable.
  • Increased purchase incentive: there’s a tangible reward for purchasing more products, making stocking up the cheaper option.
  • Convenience: included postage creates a more convenient and seamless shopping experience.

👎 Cons

  • Minimum purchase requirements: many businesses only cover shipping costs once a minimum order value is met, which may force customers to spend more than they initially intended.
  • Slower delivery: no-cost shipping often correlates with standard or slower shipping options. Customers have to pay additional fees for expedited delivery.
  • Limited product range or locations: the offer may only apply to certain products or geographical locations.

For Businesses

👍 Pros

  • Increased sales: no-charge shipping encourages customers to complete their purchases instead of abandoning checkout, increasing sales and revenue.
  • Competitive edge: covering shipping costs can give a store a significant advantage over competitors who charge for shipping.
  • Customer acquisition & retention: complimentary shipping can attract new customers and increase customer loyalty, leading to repeat purchases.

👎 Cons

  • Increased costs: heavy or large items and long-distance deliveries might substantially increase business costs. Some stores may need to increase their sales volume considerably for the offer to make sense.
  • Profit margins: not charging customers for shipping might eat profit margins, especially for low-cost items.
  • May have to enforce minimum purchases: without a minimum purchase requirement, customers may place small orders more frequently, leading to inefficiencies and increased costs for the business.

How to Get Free Shipping at Amazon?

The easiest method is to subscribe to Amazon Prime, which makes shipping free for two-day deliveries within the contiguous United States. If you’re not a Prime member, you can still get free delivery on eligible items if you spend above a minimum threshold. Amazon also extends promotions to the holders of some credit cards, one of which is free deliveries. 

Is There Free Shipping for Target?

Yes, there are a few ways to avoid shipping costs at Target. For example, you’ll get most items delivered for free if you sign up for a Target RedCard. Target’s reward program, Circle, also has special promotions with cost-free delivery from time to time. If you shop at Target a lot, consider getting a Shipt membership for same-day deliveries at no cost.

And, of course, though not technically shipping, many items can be picked up at local Target stores for free, even on the same day. 

When Does Shein Have Free Shipping?

According to their shipping information page, Shein will deliver your orders for free with standard shipping for all orders above $29, and with express shipping for orders over $129. There may be exceptions sometimes, such as promotions that include free delivery for all orders. 

How to Get Shutterfly Free Shipping?

Shutterfly often has promo codes for their personalized gifts which can include offers of free delivery. The codes are regularly available on their website, in their newsletter, or you can get them from coupon websites. 

How to Get Free Shipping at Bath and Body Works?

The retailer offers free delivery via promotions that are offered from time to time. For example, in August 2023, members with a Rewards account could get any order above $49 delivered for free with standard shipping. We recommend monitoring Bath and Body Works’ marketing campaigns for the latest deals.

How to Get Free Shipping on Pottery Barn?

Pottery Barn has a promo codes policy where they’ll occasionally have free delivery offers available, but terms and conditions can apply (such as the offer extending only to certain products). You can also find multiple deals and discounts for the store via coupon websites.

How to Get Kohl’s Free Shipping?

Any order $49 and up is eligible for free standard shipping, which takes 3 – 6 days. Holders of Kohl’s Charge Card may have access to additional free delivery offers. The retailer has offers for no-charge shipping via promo codes and through their app too. You’ll also get shipping with included postage if you have a Koh’s Most Valued Customer (MVC) status.

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