by Carolyn Edlund
Do you hate the thought of paying for shipping? If so, join a group that includes everyone you know. Overcome these charges by thinking a bit differently and taking a new approach.
A few years back, when I was working as a sales rep for art publishers and giftware manufacturers, I assisted a young business owner in her booth at the New York Gift Show. She set up her display of handmade journals and leather goods, and placed a large sign announcing a special offer of “10% discount on all orders placed at the show.” As the day progressed, response to her special was lukewarm at best.
I asked her to tell me about the shipping costs involved with her products. She did some calculations, and determined that shipping came to about 8% of the average order placed. We changed our strategy and the show special to “all orders placed at the show would get free shipping.”
Buyers listened – and they wrote orders. Saving on the perceived cost of shipping was a greater incentive than a discount on the order itself. Those who placed orders didn’t ask the dollar amount of the savings, and we were actually offering less than a 10% discount. But that didn’t matter, because the idea of free shipping trumped all.
Shipping costs can set up a psychological barrier for many customers, and may even kill a sale. Have you experienced this in your own business? It happens especially with large or heavy items, but can affect any purchase.
Here are a few ideas to overcome that resistance, and even lower your own costs:
1. Reduce shipping (or offer it free) by increasing the price of your goods. Build value into your work and increase the price, given that you are now including shipping in your pricing formula. This strategy is used by retailers of all types to reduce or eliminate the “shipping cost” line item from their invoices, and it can work very well.
2. Encourage a price level purchase to get free shipping, and bump up your sale. You’ll see this strategy on Amazon and many other sites which set an order total threshold for free shipping. I’ve added a purchase to my Amazon orders to total over $25 for free shipping before. Have you?
3. Offer local customers free delivery of large pieces, and free installation. This can solve a couple of problems for the purchaser, and help to close the sale. Unwieldy pieces can be hard to transport, and this policy removes that concern. If your art needs to be installed carefully, you can make sure it’s done right (and give great customer service.) Plus, as you visit their home or office, you get to know the customer better. You may have the opportunity to discuss other pieces that might work for their space – and you can bet that you’ll be remembered.
4. Offer free shipping on subsequent orders. This is a great strategy to drive repeat sales. If you ship out an order to a customer, include a coupon for free freight on their next purchase. And, you can encourage referral sales by also including another coupon for a friend to get free shipping on a purchase, too.
5. Negotiate for a better deal. If you ship your work frequently, consider approaching carriers for a volume discount. Do your homework and have competitors’ rates in front of you when you call.
6. Realize your own discounts. Some carriers provide free shipping boxes, which help reduce your costs. And, if you ship similar packages all the time, you might qualify for prepaid shipping with Fedex and UPS, which provides a discount. Some professional associations offer shipping discounts to their members, or you could work with a third party business such as Siriani to reduce overall freight costs.