In the current issue of eM+C magazine, you'll find my article Get Your Site Into Shipping Shape This Season with ideas on how "get the most mileage" out of your free shipping offer from search engine to shopping cart (this version includes screen shots):
1. Meta Tags and Descriptions
Famous for its Free Shipping Both Ways & 365-Day Return Policy, Zappos used to include its value proposition in its title tag and meta description tags. As I blogged about back in August), this can help achieve higher click through on your listing than search results above you.
As I mentioned in the blog post, people do search for "keyword + free shipping" in search engines, and including your offer in your title tag is crucial to optimize for these searches.
Interestingly, since August Zappos has changed its tactic to simply "Free Shipping."
Before I say this is a bad idea, the simpler message may be easier on the eyes and there may be a good reason for the switch (like testing, for instance). Unfortunately, Google doesn't hand over click-through data for organic search like it does with...
2. Search Ads
It's a bit easier to test click-through rate for shipping offers in search ad headlines and body copy, since Google reports impressions and clicks for each ad you test:
Since most people scan headlines first, don't you think "Auto Parts Free Shipping" would stand out?
Judging how long it took me to find an example of a retailer bidding on "keyword + free shipping" - it tells me this is a valuable keyword many aren't taking advantage of.
3. E-mail Marketing
Test free-shipping calls to action in e-mail subject lines, but always repeat the offer in your e-mail creative and landing page. Examples from this summer include eBags' "Pain at the Pump? Stay Put. We'll ship it to you for Free" and Macy's "Gas prices got you down? This week clearance items ship for only 99¢."
4. Data Feeds
Take advantage of optional promo fields. Many comparison-shopping engines like Shopping.com and PriceGrabber allow you to flaunt your special offers through these fields. Other comparison engines allow shoppers to select the term "free shipping" from a menu of predetermined promotions, or include a Free Shipping section - like Yahoo Shopping. Your listing may even include a "Free Shipping" icon or appear higher in results when users sort by total cost (inclusive of shipping), depending on the engine.
5. Affiliate Promotions
If you're offering free shipping for a limited time only, make sure your affiliates are notified in advance, and that all coupon codes work before you post them or send them out.
6. Offline Advertising
Mention your free shipping offer in radio ads, direct mail, in-store signage, on sales receipts and any other offline ads. Don't forget to state your restrictions clearly.
Devote significant homepage real estate to the free-shipping offer, including delivery date cutoff times as the holidays draw nearer, in addition to banners at the top of each individual Web page.
8. Category Pages
Endless.com shows "Free Overnight Shipping" below each product thumbnail and price on its category pages, communicating the value proposition to visitors who land on the category page through search and ignore the call-out at the top banner (banner blindness), and reinforcing it for customers already exposed to the offer.
9. Product Pages
Mentioning a product's free shipping eligibility on the product page (near the price or "add to cart" button) also is useful, for the same reasons as noted above.
10. Shopping Cart
If you offer free shipping above a threshold, use a "carrot" that reminds customers "You're only $X away from free shipping!" and a "continue shopping" link. Most online retailers who offer free shipping above a certain cart total don't do this.