How to Take Advantage of Free Shipping Day -- and Make a Profit

Free shipping is a popular holiday sales promotions -- so much so that more than 2,000 retailers are expected to participate in Free Shipping Day next Monday. It's not too late to sign on. Ecommerce experts offer advice on how to offer free shipping without losing your shirt any day of the year.

By Vangie Beal
Tue, December 11, 2012

CIO — In the holiday promotions game, consumers are clearly winning. Long gone are the days when free shipping during the holiday season was a reward. Today it's a must to meet customer expectations.

Most retailers know they need to offer free shipping to stay competitive, but there are issues to address. How do you promote a deal that customers expect in the first place? Most importantly, how do you offer free shipping without cutting into your profit margins?

Yes, Virginia, There's an Official Event for Free Shipping

Free shipping is something Luke Knowles knows a thing or two about. Knowles founded the Free Shipping Day event four years ago, with a website dedicated to letting consumers know where to find free shipping deals for the holidays. Today, more than 1,200 online retailers and merchants have opted to promote their free shipping deal on the website.

This year's big date is Dec. 17. That's when Knowles says the website will reveal the free shipping deals to consumers, with all participating merchants promising delivery by Christmas Eve in the United States. To take part in the in event, online retailers simply sign up (for free) on the Free Shipping Day website.

Free Shipping Day
On Monday, Dec. 17, Free Shipping Day will reveal free shipping offers with a promise of delivery by Christmas Eve in the United States. It's not too late for merchants to participate.

"For the first time in the event's history, Free Shipping Day is happening on a Monday—typically the busiest online shopping day of the week," Knowles says. "We've been nipping at the heels of Cyber Monday since we started, so we're hoping to meet or exceed their online sales this year."

In 2010, Free Shipping Day sales beat Black Friday online sales by nearly $300 million, Knowles says, becoming the third-heaviest online shopping event in history in the process. In 2011, Free Shipping Day generated more than $1 billion in online sales—an impressive feat for a Friday, which is regarded one of the slowest online shopping days of the week.

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From big retail outlets to small merchants such as artisans on Etsy, Free Shipping Day offers a nice mix of deals for consumers and puts all participants on level playing ground. That's one reason Kristine Lewis, founder of Crazyartgrrl Jewelry, participates in the yearly event.

"There's always an uptick in sales on Free Shipping Day," she says. "Just as important, our logo gets displayed beside the bigger retailers on the Free Shipping day website. For this one day, we're on equal footing with some of the biggest brands in online retail."

Kara Trivunovic, vice president of marketing services at StrongMail Systems, says that there's no reason not to take advantage of Free Shipping Day. "It's one more free place to get exposure, and it's especially important to get on board with the event if your competitors are participating," she says. "If your competitors are there, you need to be."

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