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Free shipping in online retail - status quo and customer expectations?


Published on: August 6, 2020

Updated: August 30, 2023

"Free shipping!" or "Free shipping for orders over 20 euros!" – we like to read such or similar statements when we store in an online store. The topic of shipping costs is a big issue for customers as well as retailers – on the retailer side because of the costs and for the customer it is not infrequently an important decision criterion. But how important is this offer really for customers and how many stores already offer this service?

How important is free delivery to customers really?

Many retailers think that the amount of shipping costs has little or no influence on customers’ willingness to buy. However, a survey by Bitkomhas revealed that 59 percent of respondents would like free delivery. This is on a par with "payment option" and ahead of "free returns" and "delivery time".

These are the criteria buyers use to decide whether or not to buy from an online store. (Source: Bitkom / Statista)

Do Germany’s top 100 online stores already offer free delivery?

The parcelLab E-Commerce Shipping Study 2020 shows: Half of the German top 100 online stores (50 retailers) do not offer free shipping. The amount of shipping costs to be paid ranges from 0.99 to 8.99 euros. In contrast, 22 out of 100 stores generally ship free of charge. For 28 retailers, a defined minimum order value must be reached – only then is delivery free of charge.

Half of the German top 100 online stores do not offer free shipping.

What is the reason that German online stores apparently do not want to offer their customers (completely) free shipping? The fact is that the cost of shipping is either allocated to the prices in the store or advanced by investors via financing rounds. Free shipping can therefore be very expensive, especially for small online stores.

However, those who don’t want to or can’t offer their customers free shipping have the opportunity to improve the customer experience by taking these three additional steps.

3 Tips for Optimizing the Customer Experience During Shipping

Free shipping doesn’t necessarily have to be – as the top 100 online stores also show. However, those who do not offer their customers this option should place their focus on an optimal Customer Experience, because if the customer is offered the best possible shopping experience, free shipping is beside the point. With these three tips, retailers can improve their customer experience during shipping:

1. Implement proactive and reliable shipping communications


Retailers usually communicate reliably with their customers before as well as during the order process, but they forget that communication should not stop after the order is sent. What does this mean? Shipping is a part of the customer journey and should not be handed over to the logistics provider. If you continue to communicate proactively and personally with your customers during shipping, you can both increase customer loyalty and reduce shipping-related customer service inquiries – and those are just a few of the benefits of personalized shipping communications.

2. Offer alternative delivery options

Allowing customers to make choices about delivery can improve their customer experience. What can this mean? Choosing the preferred logistics provider or delivery to a Packstation or the nearest store can be ways to make the customer’s shopping experience as pleasant as possible.

3. Provide relevant & additional content


Shipping should be a positive experience for the customer. While he is waiting for his package, relevant and interesting information can be played to him in advance. This can be, for example, assembly instructions for the new mountain bike or a tutorial on how to use the kitchen appliance ordered.

Do you want to improve your customer experience?

There are a few ways to optimize the Customer Experience. For example, here are eight tips for an outstanding Customer Experience. Would you like to optimize your Customer Experience and offer your customers the best possible shopping experience? Then feel free to contact us at any time!

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