Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Free Shipping phenomenon

Amazon rolled out an interesting promotion this month: they offered a free trial of Amazon Prime to anyone and everyone for the duration of December. Amazon Prime, which usually costs $79 a year, gives you free 2 day shipping on all purchases. For the December deal they didn't even attach strings, as such promotions usually do; they gave you an easy option at sign up to choose not to continue as a paying customer in January.


I signed up. Why not? But then I proceeded to surprise myself by how very much I did end up shopping at Amazon. Yes, it is the Christmas buying season, but I had finished nearly all my gift purchases so I did not expect this.

Take a look:

December 4th - a book about St. Nicholas
December 8th - sippy cups
December 9th - dvd/coloring book set for kids
December 10th - rain boots for Jonathan

The fact of the matter is that when I know that I'm not going to be paying for shipping, my first place to buy is Amazon. St. Nicholas' day is coming up - get a book on Amazon! Need sippy cups? Don't bother going to Target, just get them on Amazon. Find a great deal on something you had no intention of purchasing before you saw it? It would be fun and there's no extra shipping charge, so why not? I think you get the picture.

Because the shipping is free (and I don't even have to hit a $25 minimum order amount) I found myself buying things on the spot as I remembered needing (or wanting!) them. Shipping fees have always been a built in "slow down" factor for me (after all, who wants to pay $6 shipping on a $4 item?) and once removed I found that I had much less incentive to slow down and think twice about my purchases at all!

What I think is fascinating is that I, who am so very budget conscious and always looking for a good deal, reacted this way. So I can only imagine that many, many others did so as well, probably to the tune of many more dollars than I did. I'm sure that this is exactly what Amazon is betting on. And I wonder if it will work for them. I also wonder if it will work well enough for them to try it on an ongoing basis.

They have to cover their costs, of course, which might mean raising their prices a bit more. But what if the sippy cups cost $8.99 at Amazon, and $7.99 at Target? I'd buy at Amazon in a heartbeat! Paying an extra dollar on an item to skip the extra trip out would be absolutely worth it.

I don't know anything about the ins and outs of running a large scale business like Amazon. But given my own reaction to this promotion, and assuming that there have to be lots of others like me, I have to wonder if it might be just a little bit brilliant.

1 comment:

Amber said...

We did a trial of that a year and a half ago or so when Matt needed a tool for some house thing the next weekend and we couldn't find it locally. It was nice to have while the trial was going, and I think it did make us order a few more things from them then we would have otherwise. Funny, they were all construction related, but I guess that says a lot about our life when we did this!

I do feel kind of silly and wasteful making the UPS truck drive all the way out here with one small box though, but obviously living in the boonies is a lot different than living in a big urban area.