By Brandon Levey
Amazon Prime just increased its price from $79 to $99 per year and it’s causing a stir with consumers. But there are a few things about Amazon’s service that will keep customers coming back for more. How can you leverage the Prime model for your own business and create loyal customers?
1. Push for customers to “qualify” for free shipping. If you are hesitant to offer free shipping to all customers, then follow Amazon Prime’s lead and focus on member-based incentives. For small businesses, grabbing an email address from a potential customer is gold. It takes little time for someone to type in contact info, and it won’t feel like they’re giving too much to get something in return. This will allow you to market to that person even if they don’t purchase something right away.
2. Use free shipping to move the sales process forward. According to a Forrester study, 44 percent of online customers abandon their shopping carts because of high shipping costs. If you have people who leave things in their shopping cart for days, then offer free shipping as an incentive to click “buy.”
If you’re a Shopify seller, you can take advantage of their Abandoned Checkout Recovery feature in premium plans that allow you to send automated recovery emails that get people back to your store so they complete their order. If you can capture who is leaving items behind, you can add them to a list and send them an offer code for free shipping.
3. Offer free shipping to first-time buyers only. First impressions are everything, and for a lot of small businesses, customer loyalty is all about a really positive, interesting brand experiences. Offer a new customer free shipping to increase your credibility. Something as small as a friendly, “Hey, we see you’re new! Shipping is on us this time!” can make a huge impact.
Even further, ask that they share their purchase on Twitter or take a photo of it on Instagram. At the very least, you should be capturing their email address and encouraging them to opt into your marketing emails.
4. Leverage evangelists to share their purchases in order to get free shipping. Have repeat customers? Ask them to share some of their favorite products in order to get free shipping on their next product. Put it in the form of a discount code that never expires: They will be more motivated to take action for a reward they know will be accessible for a while. Use social media tracking tools to see if the offer and the shares cause a spike in mentions and discussions that include your brand.
5. Give free shipping an expiration date. On the flipside, see if people respond to immediacy. Use holidays to offer free shipping and see how people respond. Often, you’ll notify them via email or through your social accounts. Be sure to use a tool like Bit.ly to track links so you can test how successful limited-time offers are.
6. Test against discounts. If you are really not sure that free shipping is going to be a good fit for you, test it to gauge the success against ongoing discounts you offer. Within several email-marketing platforms, you can track the success of various offers. If something will potentially have a large impact on your profit margin, always test it.
Whether it’s free shipping, exclusive access to products or suggested products providing a more unique experience for your customer, looking to larger ecommerce organizations like Amazon as inspiration can be helpful. Be aware of the ecommerce and multichannel selling trends, then think of creative ways they can be scaled for your business.
Brandon Levey is the creator of Stitch Labs, a.k.a the ThinkerUpper, and writer of the original code that makes the product operate. He has a diverse background ranging from microsystems and nuclear security to iPhone accessories and sustainable apparel. When not coding he enjoys perfect lattes and dinners at Nopa. If you need to find Brandon you can probably see him scooting around San Francisco on “The Hog.”