The premise of a recent RetailWire panel discussion was that retailers offering free shipping all the time are doing their e-commerce business a disservice, compared to stores who offer it as an occasional incentive. I happen to disagree:
It’s arguable that offering year-round free shipping is actually a positive, not a negative. E-commerce sites offering free shipping on a consistent basis (even with restrictions on size of purchase or delivery time) are likely to attract repeat business, compared to sites where the benefit is unpredictable. It can be a powerful loyalty tool, for those retailers who can absorb the margin hit.
Think of it as the difference between a retailer offering “everyday low prices” and its competitor offering “high/low” sale pricing.