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These Two Features Often Determine Whether Visitors Will Buy From Your Online Store…. Or Not

By Erin  |   Business Website Tips | How To

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Let's play a guessing game.

If you had to guess what consumers rank as THE most critical feature they consider when making online purchases, what would your guess be?

Cheapest price?
Best photo?
Fastest shipping?
Best selection?

Nope. A study by Oracle and the E-tailing group found that online shoppers rank free shipping the hands-down, number one feature that impacts their buying decisions. In fact, 73% of their survey's participants ranked free shipping as either "Very Important" or "Critical".

Other surveys have shown that offering free shipping not only improves conversion rates, but that orders with free shipping average 30% higher totals.

It's ok if you didn't guess correctly. In fact, how about you take another shot?  

Try answering this question: What do you imagine the #2 most important feature is for online shoppers when making purchases?  (Go ahead, take your guess now.)

The answer is: free returns.  It came in right on free shipping's heels.

Turns out online shoppers like things for free. That can be a bit disheartening for companies running online stores, as providing products and services for free isn't always a viable business strategy—especially for smaller businesses.

So what's an online store to do?

Offer free shipping for a pre-set period of time and watch what happens.

Can't do that? Not economically possible? Too risky?

Get creative.

For example, can you promote free shipping for some purchases in your store—purchases over a certain threshold?

Businesses running online stores often see substantial increases in profits when they offer free shipping even when free shipping doesn't apply to 100% of purchases.

Common purchase thresholds include $50, $75and $100, meaning that if a customer fills her shopping cart with, say, more than $75 of product, she'll automatically get free shipping. Shoppers love free shipping so much, many would rather buy more products from stores and get free shipping than pay a lower total overall if it meant paying for shipping.  (I openly admit to finding myself in this behavior pattern regularly!)

At the very least, even if your business can't afford to provide free shipping, it's critical you let your shoppers know upfront how you handle shipping. According to the study referenced above, unexpected shipping charges at checkout may make up close to half of all shopping cart abandonments. 

People love free, and they hate unexpected and pricey surprises. 

Don't take our word for it. Run some tests on your online store. See how your shoppers react to free shipping.  Track the volume and size of online purchases.  

If the technique works for you, you'll be excited by the results.  

If not, you've gathered data, tested a new hypothesis, and can return to your previous way of charging for shipping with little harm done and invaluable knowledge gained.


Let's talk about improving your online store's results, just as we have for our other clients.

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