Sunday, November 27, 2005

Does free shipping in US really make a difference?

In an interesting piece on MSNBC titled Web sales expected to spike on ‘Cyber Monday’ they quote a SHOP.ORG survey putting free shipping as the biggest draw to sites selling online.

In my opinion this is a red herring - customers may respond when asked that free shipping is a big issue - but when it comes down to making the decision on who to buy from (especially with all the shopping aggregators around) - it comes down to 'headline price'. TIGERDIRECT.COM are the masters at this - the headline price often includes a rebate (from a post back coupon) that isn't fully obvious until checkout, and they make you input all your personal details before quoting any shipping costs.

Once someone has made the decision to buy online and not from the high street (which is a whole other set of motivations) - I would put the factors important to deciding which site to buy from in this order:

- Price
- Stock availability
- Customer service reputation
- Shipping costs

Other factors like site performance, stocked accessories, returns policy and contact information also have an influence - however, a compeitive price is the single biggest draw any ecommerce site selling commodity items can have.

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