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Free shipping is everywhere… how can small businesses keep up?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Would you rather pay less but also pay shipping, or pay more with free shipping? It’s funny how the human mind picks one even if they cost the same

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Free shipping written out

When it comes to competing with huge corporations like Amazon, there are plenty of hurdles that smaller businesses have to cross. Corporations can (and do) undercut the competition, not to mention garner a much larger marketing reach than most small businesses could ever dream of achieving. But after the holiday rush, we want to focus on something that probably most people have experienced in the last month: free shipping.

How important is free shipping to consumers? Well, in a 2018 survey, Internet Retailer discovered that over 50% of respondents said that free shipping was the most important part of online shopping. In fact, when given a choice between fast and costless shipping, a whopping 88% of those surveyed chose that option.

Part of this has to do with the fact that shipping costs are often perceived as additional fees, not unlike taxes or a processing fee. In fact, according to Ravi Dhar, director of Yale’s Center for Customer Insights, if it’s between a discounted item with a shipping fee or a marked up item with free shipping, individuals are more likely to choose the latter – even if both options cost exactly the same amount.

If you’re interested in learning more, Dhar refers to the economic principle of “pain of paying,” but the short answer is simply that humans are weird.

So, how do you recapture the business of an audience that’s obsessed with free shipping?

The knee jerk reaction is to simply provide better products that the competition. And sure, that works…to some extent. Unfortunately, in a world where algorithms can have a large effect on business, making quality products might not always cut it. For instance, Etsy recently implemented a change in algorithm to prioritize sellers that offer free shipping.

Another solution is to eat the costs and offer free shipping, but unless that creates a massive increase in products sold, you’re going to end up with lower profits. This might work if it’s between lower profits and none, but it’s certainly not ideal. That’s why many sellers have started to include shipping prices in the product’s overall price – instead of a $20 necklace with $5 shipping, a seller would offer a $25 necklace with free shipping.

This is a tactic that the big businesses use and it works. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

That said, not everyone can join in. Maybe, for instance, a product is too big to reasonably merge shipping and product prices. If, for whatever reason, you can’t join in, it’s also worth finding a niche audience and pushing a marketing campaign. What do you offer that might be more attractive than the alluring free shipping? Are you eco-friendly? Do you provide handmade goods? Whatever it is that makes your business special, capitalize on it.

Finally, if you’re feeling down about the free shipping predicament, remember that corporations have access to other tricks. Amazon’s “free” prime shipping comes at an annual cost. Wal-Mart can take a hit when item pricing doesn’t work out. Even if your business isn’t doing as well as you hoped, take heart: you’re facing giants.

Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Emily

    January 7, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Hi Brittany! The Principle that Professor Dhar refers to is called “Pain of Paying” not “Pay of paying”

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Business Marketing

How many hours of the work week are actually efficient?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Working more for that paycheck, more hours each week, on the weekends, on holidays can actually hurt productivity. So don’t do that, stay efficient.

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work week rush

With the new decade comes the renewed resolutions. Social media has been flooded with promises to get in shape, eat healthier and…hustle?

In hustle culture, it seems as though there’s no such thing as too much work. Nights, weekends and holidays are really just more time to be pushing towards your dreams and hobbies are just side hustles waiting to be monetized. Plus, with freelancing on the rise, there really is nothing stopping someone from making the most out of their 24 hours.

Hustle culture will have you believe that a full-time job isn’t enough. Is that true?

Although it’s a bit outdated, Gallup’s 2014 report on full-time US workers gives us an alarming glimpse into the effects of the hustle. For starters, 50% of full-time workers reported working over 40 hours a week – in fact, the average weekly hours for salaried employees was up to 49 hours.

So, what’s the deal with 40 hours anyway? The 40 hour work-week actually started with labor rights activists in the 1800s pushing for an 8 hour workday. In 1817, Robert Owen, a Welsh activist, reasoned this workday provided: “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

If you do the math, that’s a whopping 66% of the day devoted to personal needs, rather than labor!

Of course, it’s only natural to be skeptical of logic from two centuries ago coloring the way we do business in the 21st century. For starters, there’s plenty of labor to be done outside of the labor you’re paid to do. Meal prep, house cleaning, child care…that’s all work that needs to be done. It’s also all work that some of your favorite influencers are paying to get done while they pursue the “hustle.” For the average human, that would all be additional work to fall in the ‘recreation’ category.

But I digress. Is 40 hours a week really enough in the modern age? After all, average hours in the United States have increased.

Well…probably not. In fact, when hours are reduced (France, for instance, limited maximum hours to 35 hours a week, instead of 40), workers are not only more likely to be healthier and happier, but more efficient and less likely to miss work!

So, instead of following through with the resolution to work more this year, maybe consider slowing the hustle. It might actually be more effective in the long run!

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Business Marketing

Unpopular opinion: Coworkers are not your ‘family’

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…

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family coworkers

The season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls. I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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Business Marketing

UI/UX design trends in 2020 for maximum user friendliness

(BUSINESS NEWS) 2020 brings back classic UI and UX themes centered on beautiful visuals, rich written content, and authentic presentation. These are the trends to know.

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UI/UX design trends for 2020

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) protocol have shifted so much in the last few years that it can be daunting to try to keep up with what’s hip and what’s…well, not. Fortunately, Shakuro has compiled a list of trends to guide you through 2020. Here are our thoughts on design trends you can expect to see (and use) this year.

Content
When creating content this year, make sure it emphasizes the meaning behind your work rather than simply focusing on SEO. Too often, the meaning behind our words becomes more about selling a product or service and less about the product itself.

Other areas to focus on vis-à-vis content development include dynamic presentations for variable audiences, visual representations of data (charts, tables, and infographics easily check this box), and mobile-friendly UX and UI—something which should be at the forefront of your mind at all times.
Finally, Shakuro suggests taking 2020 to establish your own organic, opinionated content. Reposts and testimonials are fine in moderation, but the core of your page should belong to you.

Visuals
Desirable website visual trends are somewhat contradictory, but as long as you stick to the core premise—keeping your website organic and appropriate to your brand—you should be fine.

2020 sees the return of asymmetrical design trends; for example, you might have a logo on your landing page that takes up a third of the left side of the page. However, another trend anticipated by Shakuro is the use of negative space to emphasize an image—or, if you aren’t confused enough, an image that takes up the full screen with a focal point in the middle. A/B testing with different designs will be your friend this year.

Animation, high-definition renders of images, and a profound focus on aesthetically pleasing images (especially illustration) is something else you’ll want to incorporate into your design. One tip that holds true for all is that the integration of design and development from the bottom up; doing this will help streamline your process going forward.

Colors
Unlike in prior years, color schemes are largely unchanged; you’ll want to ensure that any changes you make evoke a subtle, soft quality, and some services (e.g., Shakuro) suggest incorporating natural colors as opposed to bright or bold ones. Aside from these two minor updates, keep doing what you’re doing—as long as your selected palette isn’t so dissonant that it causes stress, you’re probably safe. Just so you know Pantones color of the year for 2020 is classic blue.

Text
More than anything, your text should be written to be read by humans—not search engines. This is a common trend this year; you’ll notice that many of the items on this list are more geared toward making the human experience pleasant and noteworthy rather than simply “good enough.” This philosophy also carries over to your text design, which should communicate your brand via visual. In short, don’t use Comic Sans if you want to convey professionalism.

Another couple of minor text changes to make involve moving text overlays and combining text with visuals (e.g., videos or high-definition photos). These themes aren’t new to UX and UI by any means, but they were overplayed for a few years; luckily, it looks like they’re coming back into favor.

Experience
Perhaps the most difficult—and important—aspect of your website is the user experience. This is a good time to remind yourself to check on your mobile experience as well; often, a user’s mobile experience will determine whether or not they return to your page.

An easy way to stand out to your audience is by customizing your navigation options to fit your visual theme rather than using a default navigation setup. This can be tricky, however: you don’t want to create a site that’s unique to the point of being gimmicky—and, thus, difficult to navigate.

And, if you’re looking for an easy way to lower your audience’s blood pressure, designing a UX that requires fewer refreshes, page clicks, and redirects is a sure way to do so.

2020 may not be the flashiest year in terms of web development, but what these trends lack in star power they make up for in subtlety and depth of meaning. Don’t miss out on what could be the most content-rich year for your website!

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