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National Free Shipping Day: Should Marketers Bite?
By: Elaine Reed
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Since Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we’ve been seeing tons of headlines espousing how wildly successful these shopping days have been. Well, we’ve got one more shopping event this year: the lesser known, but coveted by online spendthrifts, Free Shipping Day.

Free Shipping Day began in 2008 and falls on December 16 this year. While this shopping event is only four years old, last year Free Shipping Day was the “third largest online shopping day in U.S. history” and has received media attention from national print and broadcast outlets.

So far over 1,800 merchants have agreed to participate this year. (You can find the complete list on the official website.) To get added to the directory, a qualified agent of the e-store has to register with a brief description of the site, the free shipping offer (there can be a minimum purchase requirement), and a coupon code. Merchants also must be able to guarantee Christmas Eve delivery. (Businesses who rely solely on ground mail may want to reconsider before making their guarantee.)

Most of the participating merchants are big players like Barnes & Noble, HP, and Macy’s, but small businesses like Crafty Things by Brie and Lara Leib Designs have also pledged to participate. As a marketer, this seems like a no-brainer: make a commitment to ship for free and deliver by Christmas Eve to get a free listing on the official site and badges for your own site. Done and done.

Take another moment to consider before you hit that “submit” button. Retailers have done themselves a huge disservice by feeding the Black Friday and Cyber Monday frenzies. They have trained consumers to wait to shop on those days and then they hope that consumers maintain a decent shopping pace after that.

Think about how many people you know who brag that they finished all of their holiday shopping on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Sure, they may pick up a few things here and there before the New Year, but not in volumes anywhere near their one-day shopping spree. And while retailers may think their holiday weekend shopping receipts are laudable, savvy shoppers are getting items below cost and never returning to the store or website. Is this a trend we really want to encourage?

Yes, the holiday season does call for special promotions, but the crazy, one-day-only door busters? It’s time to reconsider. E-stores that can offer free shipping year round, or at least more than once a year, will win more return sales than sites that only make the offer once a year. Shifting emphasis away from free shipping and bargain-basement prices and toward the overall value a consumer will receive is a much better long-term play for an e-tailer that truly wants to stay in the black.

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About the Author
Elaine Reed is a marketing professional with heavy emphasis on e-commerce and Internet marketing. She blogs regularly on her website and tweets often.
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