Free Shipping Will Be One of The Top Online Shopping Trends

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Free shipping will be one of the top online shopping trends for the upcoming holiday season

As the cost for a gallon of gas continues to rise, Americans are changing their lifestyles. Many people are moving to homes that are closer to their jobs, buying fuel-efficient cars and spending more time in the area where they reside. High gas prices are also impacting shopping habits, and this trend is expected to dramatically affect retailers during the holiday season later this year.

With gas hovering above $4 per gallon, there will likely be fewer all-day shopping excursions, even on the busiest day of the year for retailers” the day after Thanksgiving, according to FreeShipping.org founder Luke Knowles. Instead, a growing number of consumers will surf the Internet to mark off their holiday shopping lists.

Just as they do when shopping in a bricks-and-mortar store, people who decide to make their purchases online will be searching for deals, and they will be more hesitant to pay shipping charges than ever before. In fact, according to Forrester Research, 61 percent of online consumers are more likely to shop online with a retailer that offers free shipping than one that doesn’t.

“You will see an increase of free shipping deals as we get closer to the holiday season” Knowles said. “People are beginning to expect it, and retailers see it as an efficient way to make sales. Retailers also recognize that the price of gas will curtail shopping at bricks-and-mortar locations, so they will need to take added measures to attract online traffic.”

Knowles, and his wife, Maisie, recognized the trend of online shoppers favoring retailers that offer free shipping even before gas prices started to skyrocket. Last December, they launched FreeShipping.org (http://www.freeshipping.org), a one-stop destination for consumers to find online retailers that offer free shipping deals. The site, which includes more than 750 name-brand stores, allows visitors to search by brand or category.

Among the major retailers on FreeShipping.org are JCPenney, Target, Bloomingdale’s, Kohl’s, Sears, Best Buy, Old Navy, and Nordstrom. Macy’s is one of the site’s top partners, offering as many as 15 free shipping coupons at one time.

“Consumers respond to free shipping over percentage-off coupons,” Knowles explained. “Most people who shop online have endured the experience of thinking they have a great deal and then not going through with the purchase because the shipping charges were expensive.

“Free shipping is becoming a requirement, and not just a perk, for online shoppers,” Knowles added “People expect value and convenience. Especially with the cost of fuel, they want to buy an item online at a reasonable price and have it shipped free to their front door so they don’t have to get in their car and drive.”

Knowles foresees another trend among online shoppers in the 2008 holiday shopping season.

“There will be an increase in gift card sales,” said Knowles, whose site provides a list of online retailers that sell gift cards with no shipping charges. “With our busy schedules, we not only want to cut our gasoline expenses, but we also want to minimize the time we spend on making holiday gift purchases. Gift cards are convenient, and they will have even greater appeal among shoppers since a growing numbers of retailers are now shipping them at no cost.”