No Sale, Just Low Prices

If you’re anything like me,  you’ve probably gotten roughly one million Black Friday e-mails by now.   First it was teasers.  Then it was doorbusters.   Somehow Black Friday the day became Black Friday the week (or several weeks),  and it seems that everyone wants to offer you a deal or a special or a once in a lifetime can’t miss opportunity.

One of the things we get asked quite often is why EnMart doesn’t offer free shipping or do more sales.   There are a lot of reasons why we don’t,  but the most basic one is this – we don’t because everyone else does.   It’s not that we’re contrarian,  it’s more that our goal is to offer our products at prices that produce a profit for us while still being budget friendly for our customers.  Also,  when there’s a blizzard of offers already out there,  standing out from the crowd can be tough.

Still,  we get that free shipping and sales are expected and desired by a lot of our customers,  so I wanted to address in more detail the reasons why we don’t offer either of those things on a regular basis.  One reason we don’t tend to offer free shipping more often is the fact that,  in our experience,  when we have offered it,  orders have not increased.   If we offer a free shipping coupon for orders past a current price threshold,  customers often neglect to use it,  even if they meet the threshold.  Order size also doesn’t tend to increase when we offer free shipping.   Since the whole goal of offering something for free is to encourage more people to buy,  when that doesn’t appear to motivate the behavior we want,  we try something else.

EnMart also does a lot of work to keep shipping costs and product prices budget friendly for our customers.   We offer a variety of shipping options,  including allowing customers to ship via the U.S. Postal Service or on their own accounts.  Our shipping costs are also based on the shipping rates offered to our parent company.  Since that company ships a large number of packages daily,  EnMart customers benefit from rates that are lower than they might otherwise be.

As for sales,  we like sales as much as the next company,  and have tried,  over the years,  to come up with some fun sales that offered good deals.  Still, as with the free shipping scenario,  we find that sales don’t tend to increase the volume or size of orders we get.   They also don’t seem to be a prime motivator for those who are placing orders.  So,  we end up back at our basic premise,  that good service,  good products and budget friendly prices are a larger motivator for our customers.

Please keep in mind that we do offer sales and specials when the mood strikes us.   The best way to keep up to date on what sales and specials are available is to follow us on Twitter or Facebook,  or to sign up for our mailing list.   If we have a special offer running,  we will send out an e-mail and announce it on social media.

Also,  if you have any comments or suggestion for a sale you’d like to see us offer,  or a thought about our current policy,  we’d love to hear from you.   Feel free to comment on this blog post,  leave us a comment or a message on social media,  or contact us through any of the available methods.

Wisdom Wednesday: The Myth of “Free” Shipping

These days,  if you ask the average consumer what their biggest issue is with online purchasing,  chances are they’re going to say shipping costs.   That’s why so many companies are moving to offering free shipping on orders over a certain amount,  or on any order at all. Consumers have been trained to look for it,  and to expect to receive free shipping on the orders they place.  The desire for free shipping is so ingrained  that most consumers don’t even think about what costs they might be paying in place of the “free” shipping they’re receiving.

At EnMart,  we get asked about free shipping frequently,  but offer it very rarely,  generally only through our e-mail specials and then only a few times a year.  Instead we focus on keeping our prices low and giving our customers shipping options and the lowest rates we can offer.   To us,  this is a more transparent way to do business but,  to some potential customers,  who are focused on the word “free” any shipping cost at all is to high.  While we realize we can’t change everyone’s mind when it comes to this subject,  we wanted to explain why we think as we do about free shipping and why we don’t,  as a general rule, offer it.

First,  let’s talk about what “free” shipping really is.   I like this definition of free shipping from an article about the psychology behind this marketing tool.  Basically,  free shipping is defined as “a marketing technique that removes the stated cost of shipping charges for qualified purchases”.   Notice, it doesn’t say eliminates the charges,  it simply says removes the stated cost,  which means that you see a zero in the shipping line on your invoice.  That cost hasn’t disappeared, however,  it’s just not visible to you.    Someone still has to pay that cost.

One way to pay that cost,  a way that primarily works for massively large companies like Amazon,  is economies of scale.  What this means is that the retailer ships so many packages, and can subsequently negotiate extremely low rates with shipping companies,  and so their burden of shipping cost is less when spread over the amount of business the company does.   Even in the case of the biggest companies,  this is a strategy that doesn’t always pay off.  Amazon only recovers about 55% of their shipping costs,  and they can only shoulder that kind of burden because of their size and the offshoot programs they’ve created to generate additional revenue.

For companies that aren’t Amazon,  or Target or Wal-Mart,  one way to offer free shipping is to hide the cost of the shipment in the price of the product.   The math (in very simplistic form) works like this:

Company A and Company B both sell a blue widget.  It costs $3 to ship.

Company A sells the widget for $4.00 and $3.00 shipping.

Company B sells the widget for $7.00.

The cost is the same – the only difference is that if you buy from Company B,  in the column next to shipping you’ll see this: $0.

We understand that seeing $0 in the shipping column on your invoice may make you feel like you’re saving dollars,  but that isn’t always the case.  The reality is that free shipping is never free,  someone has to pay the cost,  either you as the consumer,  or the company that’s selling you the product, and if it’s the company that’s selling the product,  they’re going to have to recoup that cost in some way.   Always make sure you compare costs and spend the time to ensure that your “free” shipping is really free, and the best value available.  It may cost you a bit of time on the front end,  but you’ll be sure you’re getting the best deal available, whether you pay shipping costs or not.

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