In test after test, it seems “Free Shipping” is still a great incentive for online shoppers. I know I’m a sucker for free shipping. It just feels like, well, like I’m getting real value in the transaction when the company is going to eat the shipping costs.
Call me mean, but I like that thought.
I’ve long held a theory that women are more sensitive to shipping costs than men. I have no proof of this theory. It’s mostly anecdotal. When I talk to women about shopping online, shipping costs invariably come up as a sore topic, which is why I took notice of this discussion on the High Rankings message board about how women shop online.
Randy Cullom brought up some insight he had about shipping charges, and something he noticed with women in particular:
I’ve had two of these market research session since I first noticed the anomaly, and in each of them 80% or more of the women in the group expressed a strong or very strong dissatisfaction if the shipping and/or handling was out of whack from what they considered to be normal. As an aside, I asked those dissatisfied to write down what S&H they considered reasonable, and in all cases they were pretty much spot on with the real costs, with a little bit extra. Men seemed much more inclined to let “too costly” shipping and handling charges slide right on by. This still too small of a test group (only 60 women total between the two sessions) to be statistically sound, but the reaction has been so strong that I’m inclined to think it’s valid.
Interesting. Still not absolute proof, but it’s enough to make me ask, “How are your shipping costs helping or hurting your conversion, especially when selling to women?”
Consider setting up an exit survey when someone leaves your site to ask if shipping cost was a reason for them leaving without purchasing. If your shipping costs might be considered “high” by female consumers, what can you do about? Why not take a cue from Amazon and see if there’s an easy way for her to increase her purchase to the point that “free shipping” might make sense?
Another option: Create an incentive to purchase more products so that the shipping cost doesn’t feel as high.
For example, if you’re buying one pound of gourmet coffee for, say, $10 and the shipping is $8, there’s a good chance shipping is going to be a deal breaker. What if you tried a promotion where customers who buy 3 pounds get the fourth pound for half off. Encourage her to buy “a month’s worth of coffee.” You’re giving her a reduced price, which she’ll like. Shipping costs may go up a little to cover the extra coffee, but chances are it’s no longer 80% of the purchase price.
Obviously, you have to do what makes good business sense. These are just some suggestions. But if you’re selling to women, take a close look at your shipping charges and see if there are ways to lessen the sting for these shipping-sensitive women.
For more ideas on testing shipping costs, check out “How to Increase Shopping Cart Abandonment.”
Have you ever abandoned an online sale because you perceived the shipping costs to be too high? (I’d love to read comments from the guys as well.)
About the Author: Holly Buchanan is a Persuasion Architect at FutureNow and co-author of The Soccer Mom Myth: Today’s Female Customer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.