Free Shipping Day is dead, but free shipping is alive and well.
A Digital Commerce 360 analysis of the Top 50 online retailers found 40 (80%) offered free shipping as of Friday, Dec. 13. The reason is obvious: Consumers love free shipping. Often, they will not make a purchase without it. However, the sales event “Free Shipping Day” that numerous retailers have participated in years past did not happen this year, as many retailers already are offering free shipping during the holiday season. The event most likely would have been held on Saturday, Dec. 14, this year.
Most top e-retailers continued their usual free shipping policies, which typically offer free shipping on orders above a specified dollar amount. Others added free shipping for the holiday season or sweetened their existing free shipping deals with speedier service, or by eliminating or reducing the dollar thresholds required, according to a Digital Commerce 360 analysis.
For instance, Walmart (No. 3 in the 2019 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000) offered shoppers its standard offer of free two-day shipping on orders of $35 or above. Walmart also recently added free next-day delivery on hundreds of thousands of items.
Retailers that lowered their free shipping thresholds as of Friday include:
- Macy’s Inc. (No. 5) is offering free shipping on every order made with a Macy’s credit card. For normal orders, the department store chain lowered its free-shipping dollar threshold to $25 or more, from its usual $75.
- J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (No. 41) reduced its free shipping threshold to $25, down from $99.
- Kohl’s Corp. (No. 24) reduced its free-shipping threshold to $25, down from $75.
Not surprisingly, free shipping is important to consumers. A Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights survey in December of 819 consumers found the two most essential factors in choosing retailers when shopping for the holidays were free shipping (67%) and past experience with the retailer (56%). In addition, 49% of respondents said all their holiday purchases included free shipping and 29% said free shipping was included with 74% to 99% of their online orders.
“Shoppers have a nose for free shipping as almost half of the orders placed by our respondents included free shipping. Consumers often know which retailers offer free shipping on a year-round basis and take advantage of retailers who drop their average order requirements,” says Lauren Freedman, senior consumer insights analyst for Digital Commerce 360. “Others wait for an email containing a free shipping offer. There are many ways to get to free shipping and shoppers know how.”
In a survey of 969 online consumers conducted earlier this year for Digital Commerce 360, 91% of respondents said they had chosen not to buy from a retailer because the merchant did not offer free shipping. And 17% said they never buy something online unless shipping is free. Only 31% of the shoppers said they pay for shipping on half or more of their orders, according to the survey conducted by market research firm Toluna Group Ltd.
“While you won’t find any more major shopping holidays before Christmas, you will still find retailers offering promotions that incentivize shoppers to make purchases like free gift wrap, free gift with purchase or even free gift cards with purchase,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot Inc., a coupon aggregator company.
This year, retailers aimed to start the holiday shopping season much earlier than in years past. RetailMeNot even launched a new shopping new “holiday,” called Cash Back Day, on Nov. 7. “Some could even argue that holiday shopping happened in July with Prime Day. I expect to see this trend continue next year as shoppers are looking to space out their budget,” Skirboll says.
Cash Back Day offered 24 hours of cash back offers from hundreds of stores. Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) held its Prime Day sales event over a 48-hour period on July 15-16.
No Free Shipping Day
For a decade before this year, many retailers boosted last-minute holiday sales by participating in Free Shipping Day. But in 2019, the mid-December event didn’t happen, according to media reports.
Created 2008 by the online marketing firm Kinoli Inc., Free Shipping Day was conceived as one of a succession of special shopping days—such as Cyber Monday, Black Friday and Green Monday—that mark the holiday season. The event brought together a group of retailers who pledged to offer free shipping on all orders that day. Kinoli organized the day and publicized it at FreeShippingDay.com. The website still exists, but its offers are similar to those listed of the online coupon site CouponSherpa.com, which Kinoli also own.
Kinoli did not immediately respond to a request to comment for this story.
The rise of faster shipping and delivery options—including as same-day delivery—along with buy online pick up in store opportunities have made consumers more comfortable waiting until the last minute to make purchases, says Taylor Schreiner, principal analyst at Adobe Digital Insights. “For that reason, we are not seeing a spike in buying as free shipping cutoffs pass. The new days for last-minute purchases may now be much closer to Christmas,” Schreiner says.
On Dec. 14, 2019, online sales totaled $2.40 billion, according to Adobe. Last year’s Free Shipping Day fell on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, and online sales for that day were $2.3 billion, while online sales for Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 were $2.2 billion, Adobe says.