Why Free Shipping Is No Longer Enough (And What Things Are!)

by Sherice Jacob

Last updated on December 29th, 2017

We’ve heard time and time again that free shipping is the biggest conversion booster for online retail stores—with a whopping 93% of customers stating that free shipping would encourage them to buy more products online.

But times are changing. Everyone’s offering free shipping, so it doesn’t exactly help you stand out. How do to get customers’ attention and clinch the sale? A survey from Limelight Networks highlights three of the particulars that customers demand:

3 things customers demand

Shipment tracking is a given, right up there alongside free shipping, but what about the other two points? And how does this figure into the overall user experience? Let’s take a closer look.

Online Chat or Instant Messaging

Both customers and prospective customers alike need answers to their questions, and they’re likely not going to wade through a complicated FAQ to find them when a quick chat will fix the problem. We’ve covered some of the best live chat systems available and how they can improve your conversion rate, so it’s just a matter of:

  • implementing the feature in a way that’s branded seamlessly within your website
  • staffing it with friendly experts who are knowledgeable about your product or service

Video Demos of Product Assembly or Installation

For tangible products, having a demo showing how it’s setup or put together can save hours of frustration. If you’re on a tight budget and you sell a software or Web-based product, a service like GoAnimate or an explainer video from SwitchVideo can simplify the process.

But These Points are Just the Beginning…

These three features can work to sway the conversion pendulum in your favor, but if your page loads slowly or isn’t optimized for mobile, all that extra work is for nothing. In fact, customers demand performance and aren’t willing to wait around—literally and figuratively.

performance key

Website performance (load time, buffering video, etc.) is high on the list of user demands
for a flawless web experience

Let’s look at load time. There’s a common statistic floating around on the Web that states you have five seconds to get their attention and convince them to take action. These days, with always-on, on-demand service, five seconds is a luxury. According to Limelight’s study, 60% of customers aren’t willing to give you those five seconds, and for 20% of those users, three seconds would be too long.


Users aren’t willing to wait long before leaving your site (and buying from a competitor!)

Mobile Users are Unforgiving on Site Speed

A common misconception tied to page speed is that mobile users are willing to wait a bit longer as components and elements specific to their device are loaded into the browser. After all, it’s “new” technology and there are always a few speed bumps along the way, right?

Not this time.

In the same survey, mobile users believed that responsive sites should load as quickly as their desktop-designed version. In our increasingly interconnected world, it pays for designers to recognize the devices prospects are using to connect—including smartphones, notebooks and tablets.

But designing for smaller screens doesn’t give you a pass to incorporate a lot of flashy technology and graphics. People want simplicity and speed—the rest is just fluff.

mobile loadingUsers expect a seamless presentation and faster loading on both desktop and mobile devices alike

Combining All the Ingredients of a Successful Sale

So let’s say you’ve got a fast-loading, live-chat-enabled, responsive site with free shipping and order tracking. Does it seal the deal?

Well, there are two ingredients we haven’t focused on—and they’re the two things that no competitor can duplicate—the product and the people behind it. You could incorporate all of these facets into your pages flawlessly, but without the quality and attentiveness to back them up, you’ll have nothing.

Naturally, companies are flocking to social media to engage their customers where they are, but are the customers reciprocating? An IBM study on social CRM (customer relationship management) found some interesting answers to that question. Remember that prospects are giving you their attentiveness, their time, and in many cases, their personal information. They want something in return—even from companies that feel their customers don’t primarily seek them out for things like discounts or other incentives.

So what can you give them besides a flawless user experience on your website? This is where you have to get creative and brainstorm. People primarily use social media to connect with family and friends, so truly innovative companies are looking for a way to create those kinds of connections with their prospects.

Case in point, HomeMadeSimple.com, a portal-style site that offers everything from recipes to interior decorating ideas to seasonal design tips. From the outset, you’d never guess that this site is owned and managed by Proctor & Gamble, makers of everything from cough syrup to dog food, potato chips to detergent.

homemade simple
The Home Made Simple site features P&G products in a way that makes the brand
feel friendly, close and comfortable with its target audience

And their social pages are bustling as well, with recipes, craft ideas, episode sneak peeks (HomeMadeSimple has its own program on cable) and user surveys. With over 400,000 likes and followers, HomeMadeSimple is a big, broad effort trying to reinvent and position itself as a more wholesome, friendly and open channel.

hms fbThey carry over these sentiments to their Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages

Of course, you don’t have to be a social media behemoth to make these kinds of connections with your customers. Remember, they’re looking at social media as a way to keep in touch with family, so in many cases, smaller businesses have a distinct advantage. They can respond promptly without having to jump through corporate flaming hoops.

With that being said, here’s your quick-action checklist to start creating memorable experiences and giving customers every reason to choose you over your competition:

Quick Action Checklist

  • Integrate free shipping and delivery tracking with your preferred shipping provider to give customers every incentive to order from you again and again.
  • Add live chat/instant messaging to your site and staff it during normal business hours. Knowledgeable, friendly product experts should be available at the click of a button. If prospects see that “Live Chat is Unavailable,” they may think that you don’t really want or value their business.
  • If you sell a tangible product or a software program, show customers how to get up and running with it quickly through the use of how-to videos, explainer videos or an animated demos.

Customers and prospects alike are engaging brands on social media, but not for the reasons you might think. Companies need to lose the stuffy, starched-shirt approach and welcome two-way communication by making their branding more friendly, open and approachable. Give something of value to your customers in exchange for their time, focus and personal information.

What are Your Thoughts?

Boosting your conversion rate is no longer just a matter of plopping up a “FREE SHIPPING” graphic and calling it a day. Today’s customers are looking to create experiences with their favorite brands and the products they love, not to become just an order number.

What are some of your favorite “conversion clinchers”? What has worked in your industry? Share your thoughts and comments with us below!

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Sherice Jacob.

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Sherice Jacob

Sherice Jacob helps website owners improve conversion rates with custom design, copywriting and website reviews.  Get your free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up by visiting iElectrify.com.


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  1. jackshron says:
    November 11, 2014 at 2:48 am

    I Like your Post. Very Informative.

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