In the US, shipping fees are used creatively by merchants to build customer loyalty and segment customers based on urgency and total spend. There are numerous examples – Free shipping above $25,
Next day delivery if you order within the next 2 hours,
2-day shipping for Amazon Prime members,
Free shipping on Valentine’s day for students,
Add $5 to your order for next-day shipping, and so on.
Behavioral studies show that a “free” offer makes a person’s mind enter a risk-free zone hence something for free is a lot more appealing that something at Rs. 5. Anything non-zero does not create the same effect. However, this conclusion holds true in cases that are actually risk-free. For example, get a free DVD of Titanic with this TV. In this case, you know exactly what you’re getting – no risk of delay (when will it come) or quality (what it is). Free shipping is a service and has inherent risks. It can arrive late and I cannot penalize for the delay, or it can arrive broken. I recently ordered a room heater from Indiatimes and it arrived a month later when the winter was almost over.
Without the ability to price, slice or waive shipping, how will merchants convert shipping into a service by itself? How will customers who want it tomorrow be able to say so and pay for it? It’s no different from paying for a superior gift wrapping. You can waive the fee, but as a shopper I need the ability to ask for overnight shipping and gift wrapping.
Flipkart does an awesome job of keeping its promise of delivery date and has kept the threshold for free shipping very low (Rs. 200). In its early years, Flipkart had to provide free shipping as Indians were apprehensive of online shopping, and any extra charges would make them run away.
Times have changed. Indians are now comfortable with shopping online even for last-minute purchases. The cost of fuel, traffic and weekend rush are not worth a trip to the mall. Given today’s spread of e-commerce websites, I expected at least the Nth website to offer a range of options in shipping and gifting at checkout. In a country like ours where most cities are within 2 hours of flying time, a variety in shipping options especially overnight and same-day delivery should be possible.
It’s time that e-commerce entrants and their shipping providers start examining their ‘one-size-fits-all’ shipping policies and introduce more proactive options to delight customers. With Amazon’s entry into India, I’m guessing that the service standards in e-commerce are about to change!
Unless otherwise noted, the following websites only have one shipping option.
Apparel and Accessories
ladybug.in (Standard and Express Shipping options, no waivers)
fetise.com (As per their website, Fetise charges flat Rs. 100/- per order for delivery, irrespective of the goods weight, volume, fragility, value or location. They also have an ‘Express Delivery’ shop for some items.)