The way people shop has been changing for some time now. The Internet has made it possible to find just about anything you want — and to find it at the best price by comparing different e-commerce websites.
As a result, more and more people are forsaking brick-and-mortar stores. To find the latest and greatest products, they’re going to popular online stores like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay.
While shopping online has made finding the best products at the best price an otherwise straightforward process, there’s one thing that has convoluted the process. And if you ignore it, it can end up costing you quite a bit of money: shipping costs.
U.S. shipping rates for even a small package through major shipping carriers average between $4.95 with the United States Postal Service (USPS) small flat-rate shipping box and up to $8.25 through carriers like UPS and FedEx. Considering high shipping costs, you can end up spending more online than you do walking into a store. That’s especially the case if you’re shipping a relatively low-dollar product.
How to Save Money on E-Commerce Shipping Costs
After all, when an online shopper sees free shipping on a website, they’re more likely to buy. That’s not just an educated guess. According to Inc.com, 88% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy if a website offers it.
Nonetheless, in some cases, there’s nothing you can do to avoid paying some shipping costs. That’s especially true when purchasing a unique item from a small business or private party. But even in the case of buying from a small business, you may be able to reduce your shipping rates, leaving a little extra change to jingle around in your pocket.
There are several strategies for decreasing or eliminating shipping costs.
1. Ship the Item to the Store
Stores regularly receive shipments to their brick-and-mortar locations. It’s how they keep their shelves full. In many cases, it doesn’t take much effort to put the product in a shipment that’s already bound for your local retailer so they can hold it for you at their location.
If you’re buying from the e-commerce website of a store in your area, it’s a cost-effective option for the retailers offering the service, and it’s generally free to the consumer.
2. Meet Free Shipping Minimums
Most websites realize that if they want to do more e-commerce business, they must offer free shipping and find some way to eat the costs at the post office. But most aren’t willing to provide free shipping on small purchases — the profit margins just aren’t worth it. In some cases, shipping costs are higher than product prices.
To avoid losing money on free shipping, several online retailers require minimum purchase amounts to qualify for it. If you get to checkout and realize you haven’t met the free shipping minimum, shop around for deals on other products they sell until you qualify for free shipping. Just don’t buy something you don’t really need or want. In a pinch, try to think of staples you know you’ll use, such as toilet paper, cleaning supplies, or your favorite coffee brand.
3. Stick With Standard Shipping
The urge to get your newly purchased products as fast as possible may tempt you to pay a little extra for overnight or one-day shipping. You spent the money, and now you want to get as close to instant gratification as possible.
It’s crucial to remember delivery times and other shipping options play a significant role in shipping costs. Getting a product from Washington state to Florida costs much more if it needs to happen in a single day. That kind of timeline requires shipping companies to use air travel, extra labor, and a sense of urgency that ultimately costs you money.
Patience is a virtue. Wait the standard seven to 10 business days for shipping, and you can save quite a bit of money.
4. Use Promotional Codes
Promotional codes, or promo codes, are a useful tool for online shoppers — both for discounts on products and shipping.
In many cases, you can find promo codes with a simple online search. Go to your favorite search engine, such as Google, and type in “[The name of the brand you’re shopping] coupon codes.” For example, if you’re shopping at Walmart, you would type in “Walmart coupon codes.”
Scroll through your search results to uncover deals that could save you a percentage of your cost at checkout or wipe out shipping costs entirely.
Some of the most reputable websites for promo codes include RetailMeNot, Honey, and Coupon Cabin. You can also add the Capital One Shopping browser extension and they will automatically add coupon codes for you.
5. Shop During Free-Shipping Promotions
Promotions happen all the time. Even the mom-and-pop shops of the e-commerce industry run promotions periodically.
Often, those promotions include free shipping.
If you’re looking for a product you don’t have to have right now, check back every once in a while to see if a free shipping promotion is starting soon. You never know — what you pay for today, you could get for free tomorrow.
6. Become a Member
Some e-commerce sites offer memberships. Typically, members receive access to the newest releases and best deals before nonmember shoppers. In many cases, these deals include discounted rates for shipping and handling.
In some cases, memberships are free, while you have to pay a fee for others. However, if you find yourself on the website often, paying a modest annual membership fee can save you quite a bit of money in the long run.
A perfect example of this opportunity is an Amazon Prime membership.
Amazon charges $12.99 per month or $119 for an annual membership and offers free two-day shipping on Prime-eligible products. However, with an Amazon membership, there are perks outside free shipping. Amazon Prime members also receive access to extras including a long list of streaming movies and music and exclusive Prime Day deals.
7. Check Competitor Shipping Costs
Each retail business owner sets their own prices. Some are higher, and some are lower. That’s true both for the product and in terms of shipping prices.
On top of that, different websites have different shipping volumes and use different shipping services, all of which play a role in the bottom-line cost of getting the product on your computer to show up at your front door.
8. Check the Return Shipping Fee
Shopping online has another issue: returns.
It can be challenging to convey certain aspects of a product, like its quality and color, online. As a result, returns are a major reality for online retailers and the consumers who buy from them.
You want to be able to return a product that isn’t quite what you expected. So make sure the retailer offers return service.
Also, pay close attention to the terms of returns — particularly when it comes to return shipping fees. In some cases, e-commerce businesses email a shipping label for you to print and take the package to your local shipper. Others have a more convoluted process.
Those that charge for return shipping either charge a flat rate or sliding fee, depending on the product’s size and weight. Nonetheless, know the cost of returns before purchasing. If you don’t, you may be stuck with a product you never wanted in the first place.
9. Get a Store Credit Card
Finally, some of the larger online retailers offer store credit cards. While interest is often exorbitant on these cards, if you pay the balance off completely as soon as you get the bill, you can avoid interest and take advantage of the perks store credit cards have to offer.
One of the perks many retailers offer is free shipping for cardholders who make online purchases.
So you can avoid shipping costs entirely by opening a new store credit card and taking advantage of the additional perks the account has to offer.
The way consumers shop has changed drastically over the past several years. While shipping has thrown a stick in the figurative tire spokes of the e-commerce industry, most savvy e-commerce business owners have found a way to reduce shipping costs for consumers.
In some cases, avoiding high shipping costs is as simple as finding the product you want and buying it from a retailer that provides free shipping. In other cases, you have to get more creative by adding to your online shopping cart, looking for coupon codes, or signing up for a store credit card.
Nonetheless, in most cases, you can reduce the shipping costs associated with your online shopping activities.