Try doing your best to offer free or discounted shipping. This is always important for the reasons mentioned below, but it will be particularly important this Holiday season. Consider the following:
- Expensive Gas = More E-commerce.
Research has been done showing that people do tend to shop more online when they feel like getting in the car is costing them more money. For example, see Gas Prices Boost E-Commerce.
- Shipping Costs = #1 Drop-Off Reason.
There is a lot of evidence indicating that the number one reason for a serious prospect (customer that added products to the shopping cart and began the checkout process) to abandon the order is high shipping charges. For example, see Shopping Cart Abandonment Rises.
So - in practical terms - what can you do?
- Consider keeping prices a bit higher, but offer free shipping (e.g. ground shipping). Customers often make a final purchasing decision on the total cost of the purchase, not on the initial product price (which is why the drop-off is so high during checkout, when the total cost becomes clear).
- Let them know! Strongly advertise on your store that you offer free shipping (e.g. with a very visible graphic that becomes part of your store interface)
- Use free shipping to promote repeat purchases. For instance, consider sending a coupon to those who buy inviting them to purchase again and obtain free, faster shipping (e.g. an electronic coupon that makes "Second Day Air" free). Remember that your margin on a repeat purchase is by definition higher as there are no marketing costs associated with acquiring that customer, since this is an existing customer.
- Last minute gifts. Consider offering free, fast shipping right before Thanksgiving and Christmas (last minute gifts).