As small-business retailers prepare for Cyber Monday, consider a recent survey that found 80 percent of Americans factor shipping costs into their purchasing decisions. What's more, nearly half -- 49 percent -- say they've abandoned an online shopping cart because the shipping cost was too high, according to BizReport.com.
To help you prepare for the upcoming holiday season and beyond, here are some ways your small business can rein in high shipping costs:
Do your research. Make sure that you compare vendors and read the fine print. Each respective carrier, website, or service will have its own shipping tools that can help business owners assess their shipping options based on business size, industry, and whether your transactions are domestic or international, or both. Confused by the legal language? Hire an experienced contracts lawyer to help you sort it out.
Limit where you ship. You can also cut costs by keeping your shipping policy domestic. But, if you're offering international shipping, it's best to do your research first to know exactly how all the fees are broken down. Talk to your carrier to make sure that you're informed.
Offer deals and discounts. Since shipping costs turn away so many consumers, figure out if you can afford to ship for free -- maybe offer free shipping if customers spend over a certain dollar amount. This way, they'll not only have an incentive to purchase more, but can even save from it. Also, think about other holiday deals that you can offer to your customers to cushion the blow from shipping prices; using social media (like offering Foursquare check-in incentives) may help.
Be upfront about your shipping policy. Make sure that your shipping policy is in writing. Post it somewhere prominent where consumers will see it. This way, they'll know what's in store for them when they click the checkout button.
Offer site-to-store pickups. Much like big box stores like Walmart, Target, and Barnes & Noble, allowing customers to reserve an item online and pick it up in person -- with no shipping or handling fees attached -- may give you an advantage.
Getting your shipping costs under control is just one way to encourage online sales. For more e-commerce preparation tips, check out these seven common website errors you'll want to correct by Cyber Monday.