Loving Wal-Mart’s Free Shipping.

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“I love free shipping” was my wife’s response when I mentioned Wal-Mart’s newest offer on all website purchases this holiday season. 

eCommerce is propping up the shipping business (US Postal Service, UPS and FedEx) and dinging the oil business.  Some economics student should plot U.S. online sales increases growth to barrels of oil consumed as a thesis topic.  When a consumer says “I love __________ (fill in the blank)” you need to pay attention. The wifus loves free shipping and she loves free returns – especially so, when the return label is already in the box. 

This is how the return thing works: Outside in the garage is a second refrigerator.  On top of the fridge, spilling off in all directions, are boxes. The boxes are a few steps closer to the kitchen than the car.  To return a product, she walks to the garage, grabs a box and some Amazon bubble bags or newspaper, then returns to the kitchen where she assembles the box, labels it, grabs the packing tape out of the cupboard in the butler’s pantry – zip, zip and to the front door.  If it’s UPS or FedEx she may have to dial a telephone number or click-to-pick. Could that be any easier?  Easier than say, driving to a store, standing in line and doing the whole credit card thing?  

This “I love free shipping” behavior, even as a trial at Wal-Mart may, as The New York Times declares, deliver a “knock-out punch.”  Not to Amazon, but to a number of smaller retailers with inelastic margins who can’t play this game.  Oh, it’s here to stay. So watch out.

eCommerce makes every day Christmas day (insert your holiday here).  In store shopping, for its many positives, has more than its share of negatives; especially around the holidays. Wal-Mart is paying attention. What a marketing juggernaut. Peace!