Here’s Why Free Shipping Isn’t Free

Free shipping is quickly becoming an expectation of the on-line consumer, but the premium to it is increasing. Free shipping will be offered by 93% of on-line retailers this year, up from 85% last year, but consumers will be required to spend more to earn the benefit.

Yahoo cites a study done by the National Retail Federation that found that 30% of retailers said they would offer free shipping on some orders verses 22% of retailers who said they would offer free shipping on all orders last year. “Free shipping has become the expectation for consumers,” says Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University per Yahoo.

Dan de Grandpre, founder of sale-tracking site DealNews.com advises shoppers to look at the whole deal, not just the shipping price. For example, some websites have multiple special offer codes available to consumers at one time, but only one can be used per order. A 20% offer might benefit a consumer more than a free shipping offer.

Many retailers offer free shipping without a code or coupon as long as an order minimum is met. JC Penney (NYSE:JCP), Macy’s (NYSE:M), L.L. Bean, Gap (NYSE:GPS), Old Navy, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) all use this method, which also enables the consumer to use an additional promo code at checkout for additional savings. Bottom line: do the math and make sure to be on the lookout for promotional codes and coupons.