Holiday 2011 Trends: Are you Ready for Free Shipping Day?

Free Shipping Day helps merchants promote free shipping offers for holiday shoppers.

This holiday season consumers are expected to shop earlier, spend less and do their homework to find the best deals and most value for their money. New ecommerce holiday research from SymphonyIRI Group predicts that 74 percent of consumers will be spending less than $800 in total on the holidays and 73 percent will begin shopping before December first. 

Online, one of the biggest holiday shopping trends is to offer free shipping for the holidays. The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently reported that free shipping offers were one  of consumers' favorite holiday promotions, and this year we should expect t to see more than ninety-two percent (nine in 10) of online retailers  planning to jump on the free shipping bandwagon.

For consumers, free shipping deals allow them to research online to find the best price and keep that purchase price low because, as we all know, the cost of shipping inflates a consumer’s overall purchase cost.

Free Shipping Day: A Trendy Online Shopping Event

One of the biggest events based on the holiday shopping trend of boosting sales by offering free shipping is Free Shipping Day. It’s a one day online event where participating merchants offer free shipping with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.

Kendal Perez, a representative of Free Shipping Day said that the goal behind Free Shipping Day when it was started four years ago (by Founder Luke Knowles) was to extend the holiday shopping period for both consumers and merchants--

“People are hesitant to order online in mid-December because they worry the item will not arrive in time for Christmas. Free Shipping Day is a method to make that happen for shoppers and retailers,” Perez explained.

The fourth annual Free Shipping Day is scheduled for December 16, 2011, and the online event has already attracted more than 750 registered merchants who will offer free shipping for the 24-hour period with delivery by December 24th.

Perez said in its first year, Free Shipping Day attracted a little more than 200 merchants, but more than 2,000 merchants are expected to participate this year.

Designed for Merchants of All Sizes

What’s nice about it, from a retailer’s perspective is that small businesses and large businesses can participate and for this one day it evens the playing field -- smaller online merchants are promoted right beside the big retailers for 24-hours.

This year the Free Shipping day program has been expanded to also include eBay Store owners, Etsy artisans and Bonanza sellers. These online sellers will be featured with big brands like Target and Nordstrom.

In an email conversation with Ecommerce-Guide.com, Director of Happiness & Co Founder of Bonanza.com, Mark Dorsey, said the free shipping promo day was brought to its attention by one of the Bonanza community members as an opportunity for all Bonanza sellers to have another outlet of promotion. 

"We then contacted Freeshippingday.com to add Bonanza as one of their marketplace choices. They agreed to add Bonanza if we could sign up at least 50 of our sellers," said Dorsey.

It took less than 24 hours for Bonanza to achieve that goal, and now it is listed as a category on Freeshippingday.com.

Small Business Merchant Tips for Free Shipping Day Participation

If you decide to join the program, you simply need to locate the ‘Merchant Sign-Up’ link on the Free Shipping Day website. You’ll need to provide your business details in the online form provided, and choose a product category to be listed in (note that eBay, Etsy and Bonanza are listed as a category if you sell on one of those sites). Participation in the program is free for merchants.

Outside of completing the merchant form on the site, you’ll also need to evaluate the program and your business to determine if you can offer free shipping and be profitable on December 16. Some businesses will opt to set a minimum order value for free shipping, and this is fine to do with the Free Shipping Day promotion.

“For consumers, free shipping with no minimum is the preferred offer, but some retailers -- big and small -- will offer free shipping on orders over $50 or $75. So there are options to consider when retailers are evaluating if this is something they can afford to do,” said Perez.

Before signing on, small businesses will also want to have a good idea that staff can handle the influx of traffic on Free Shipping Day, and that you have both inventory and in-house resources to package items and get them out to meet the Christmas Eve delivery guarantee.

Vangie Beal is a veteran online seller and frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

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