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How To Afford Free Shipping During the Holiday Season

Ideas that can help you offer free shipping during the holiday season


As an organic online retailer, you should know that many customers don't just want, but expect free shipping year round. At the very least, they expect it during the holiday season. In fact, a comScore holiday survey shows that 36% of online shoppers only shop free shipping sites and another 42% of online shoppers actively search out free shipping sites. Plus, if you can offer free shipping during the holiday season it'll give you a leg-up on other organic online retailers, because a bulk of organic companies fail to offer free shipping.

That said, shipping is expensive, so how on earth can you afford it? The good news is that you probably can afford at least some free shipping, which, when paired with other attractive deals will draw customers in. Keep reading for ideas about how to better afford free shipping for all your organic goods this holiday season.

1. Try USPS

Photo courtesy USPS

Many businesses head straight to companies like FedEx and UPS for shipping needs, but USPS actually has some of the better business shipping rates around so long as you're not shipping super heavy items.

USPS offers online shipping with discounted rates and free delivery confirmation, free Saturday delivery, zero surcharges for residential delivery, easy to use mobile applications, eco-friendly packaging, return options and even international shipping, among other perks.

To learn more request a free USPS business shipping kit.

2. Offer Customer Pick-up

Image © Deklofenak - Fotolia.com

If you happen to have a brick and mortar establishment, plus an online store, offer in-store pick-up. In fact, if you can, you may even want to offer a small discount for customers willing to pick-up in-store. This is win-win. Customers get a great deal and you get customers into your store where more purchase decisions can happen. This is an especially smart move if you sell organic food, because shipping food locally is way more costly than it's worth if you need special cold or other packaging to keep food safe.

3. Offset Shipping Costs

Image © Pixsooz - Fotolia.com

There are various ways to offset your shipping costs by bringing in cash another way, though not all of these will work for every organic business. Some popular ways to defray shipping costs include the following...

  • Charge annual membership fees for customers who may want to access special deals or upgrades. Amazon is one major retailer who uses this method, but other smaller retailers may be able to tailor this idea to their own needs.

  • Offer subscriptions. Many organic companies who offer coffee, tea, other foods or body care products may benefit from monthly product subscriptions. For example, organic coffee sent once a month to the same customer. This ensures sales even if a customer hasn't visited your site lately, thus more cash in your pocket, and more chances to afford shipping costs.

  • Reuse packaging to cut out new packaging costs. New packaging is an expensive part of shipping - it adds up fast. Visit other local retailers who discard or recycle boxes, bubble wrap and shredded paper. Recycled packaging is not just cheaper, but many organic customers appreciate this greener approach to packaging.

4. DIY Delivery

Image © Fotowerk - Fotolia.com

For local customer purchases you can actually deliver some packages by hand. This brings up other costs of course, like gasoline costs and employee time. Still, in some cases, if you have a bunch of deliveries in the same area, it can be more cost-efficient than shipping. Plus, personal deliveries give you a chance to connect with customers.

5. Offer Free Shipping to a Point

Image ©garytamin via sxc.

Consider offering free shipping only when customers purchase a specific set amount, say over $25 or over $50, depending on your product. Be realistic though when setting limits. Folks get mighty upset when you offer free shipping for goods over $50 if your products are small and cost just $5 each (say organic soap). Few people want to buy $50 worth of organic soap simply to get free shipping.

A perk of this method is that it encourages people to buy a set amount of goods and people easily except this shipping style, because many businesses ship this way.

Additionally consider which products you will not ship for free, then include this information in your shipping policy. It's a fair standard in online retail to not ship overly large items for free and to exclude specific areas where international or offshore shipping rates are simply too costly.

6. If You Really, Really Can't Afford Free Shipping...

offer free gift wrap
Image ©canna_w via sxc.

If you can't go free-shipping all-the-way, at least consider some sort of free shipping deal, such as purchases made during a specific week or free shipping on special items. Also, if you're not offering free shipping, be sure to offer other perks, like free gift wrap or a free sample with every purchase. Customers upset by the lack of free shipping may overlook it if you can offer another enticing deal.

If you need more ideas, check out How to Offer Free Shipping without Going Broke or break down the free shipping game - both are packed with good ideas.

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