It's a common scenario - she comes to your site, finds what she wants, adds it to her cart, and sometime during checkout she sees what she considers to be an unrealistic and unfair shipping cost.
From the anecdotal evidence I've received, shipping costs are an even bigger problem with women than men.
I suspect that the reason shipping costs are a deal killer for women is because women may be more likely to think the price is "unfair."
In a blog post on Grokdotcom.com, I asked the question Do Women Respond to "Free Shipping" More than Men? It sparked quite a debate.
There were some very insightful comments and stories from etailers about their own experience.
From one example I gave – from the comments and other women I've polled -women feel better about a purchase where the product is $36 and the shipping is $4, than a product that is $32, but shipping is $8. The final price is the same. (There's a similar story in the comments from Rob and his experience selling on Amazon)
In her article Is it Just Me or Are Online Shipping Costs Too High? Jennifer Foote describes her own experience with shipping costs:
Of course, I have always realized that shipping costs could be high, but I never really experienced it firsthand until recently. I, like many other online shoppers, assumed that I would have to pay a fairly decent amount of money for a large item, such as a piece of furniture, but what about something smaller. For instance, I was interested in purchasing my mother a necklace for her birthday. Call me cheap, but something that weighs about the same as a standard envelop shouldn't cost more than seven or eight dollars to be shipped.
When taking the costs of shipping into consideration, it is important to remember how those items are being shipping. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell until your items have arrived. However, even if that necklace was shipped priority mail, which it wouldn't have been, and even with insurance, the shipping still shouldn't have totaled seven or even eight dollars, in my opinion. Of course, like a fool, I decided to pay the shipping. It was something that could be delivered to my mother's door, but since that day I have always been thinking about the high costs of shopping online.
Folks – this is a perception battle. Even if your shipping costs are perfectly fair (it can be expensive to ship certain items), if she perceives them to be exorbitant, you risk losing the sale.
Another factor could be that women are weighing the benefits of online vs. offline shopping. If you have a brick and mortar store – is it worth it to pay a shipping cost she may feel is too high if she can buy it offline?
So, what can you do to keep shipping costs from driving female customers away? Here are some ideas:
- Send an email from customer service to customers who have abandoned their cart. Ellen Hart at Careerbags.com has had a high success rate of corresponding with customers, explaining costs and savings sales.
- Do some number crunching and see if it makes sense to offer free shipping with purchases over a certain dollar amount – i.e. free shipping with orders over $100.
- Offer a flat shipping fee – say $5.95 for all orders. Again, look at shipping costs vs. potential for increased revenue.
- If you have some sort of customer loyalty or frequent buyer program, consider free or reduced shipping as a reward for your best customers. (That free shipping incentive might feel more valuable to her than a 10% off discount)
I've been asked if etailers should reach out in those abandoned cart emails to offer a discount. I recommend against this since you don't want to train your customers to abandon their carts in order to get discounts. If you have to have an incentive, offer a free sample or other value-add.
Shipping costs are a major issue in online shopping for women and for men. What's been your experience? What steps are you taking to address this issue?