E-commerce Free Shipping Case Study: How much can it increase conversion rate?

Posted By Devesh Khanal

We know free shipping is a massive needle mover for ecommerce customers. In this short case study we share results from two AB tests we’ve done that help answer:

Where is the best place to put your free shipping and free returns messaging to get the biggest lift in conversions?

Test 1: Free Shipping messaging placement for furniture ecommerce site increases conversion rate 19%

Hypothesis:

On the original site, free shipping and free returns was already mentioned in the promo bar at the top of the page which was visible sitewide.

couch free shipping VA

We hypothesized that due to (a) banner blindness and (b) too many competing messages in the promo bar, this message was not getting across.

Where could we place this message that would be least likely to be missed and most likely to influence the buying decision?

We settled on placing it below the add to cart button on the product detail pages (PDP).

couch free shipping VB

Result

We saw a 19% increase in orders with 99.9% statistical significance. The test ran for 2 weeks and recorded over 1,500 conversions.

Implications

In many ways, this test is fascinating. In the original, the free shipping and free returns messaging is already mentioned in the promo bar, at the top of the page, sitewide.

How could customers not see this?

This result suggests there is truth to the idea that banner blindness and competing messaging hurts the effectiveness of that message.

If you offer free shipping and free returns, or have other key value propositions (like an active discount code or promotion) you should strongly consider testing where free shipping and returns messaging is placed, and certainly test adding it near your add to cart button on the PDP. Most brands from what we’ve seen either put them in promo bars (not bad) or save them for graphics on the homepage (much worse).

Test 2: Free Shipping copy for a Supplement Company Does Not Affect Conversion Rate

We tested something very similar for a niche supplement company.

Hypothesis

In this case, we actually hypothesized it would perform better because there was no mention of free shipping on the site except in fine print. (Definitely not in a sitewide promo bar like the example above).

Just like the above test, we put free shipping copy below the add to cart button:

bottle water free shipping

The only differences were:

  • The copy said “Free US Shipping & Returns instead of “Free Shipping & Free Returns”
  • There was a dropdown caret that had more details on the 30 day return policy. The schematic above for B (our variation) shows the caret expanded. Upon pageload it was collapsed, i.e. the box with return details was not visible.

Results

After 2 weeks and over 5,000 conversions, we saw no difference in conversion rate between the original and variation. The conversion rates were almost identical!

Implications

For this brand we actually tried a few different placements of free shipping copy including in a promo bar and still found it made no difference on conversion rate.

Why could that be?

AB tests tell you what and you have to hypothesize as to why.

In this case it could be several reasons:

  • This is a specific, niche supplement space where there are only a few providers and most provide free shipping, so it may be expected by the customer.
  • This is a much lower price point than the first example (furniture) so perhaps in the first example the thought of a hefty shipping cost and hassle of returning furniture is a huge friction point that the copy helped assuage.
  • The supplement brand is very content heavy, so readers may be far more sure they want to buy after reading up on the details and details like shipping cost don’t matter as much.
  • Finally, the customers for the supplement brand may simply be less price sensitive due to its niche characteristic. In fact, later we did pricing tests that also showed little difference (to be profiled in a later case study).

Disclaimers

One lesson we’ve learned over and over is that while there are UX patterns that seem to perform better across multiple ecommerce sites, there are always plenty of exceptions. So what works for one site, doesn’t always work for another. The two examples above show that.

So we encourage you to learn, take inspiration, and think critically about the case studies above and how they may apply to your store. Then, we encourage you to run your own tests before simply implementing these UX treatments on your site.

If you’d like to talk to us about improving conversion rates for your ecommerce brand, you can learn more about working with us here.

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