Free Shipping, Even If You’re a Beaver

There are lots of theories and data on how free shipping effects e-commerce sales. The only constant is that the faster an item ships to a customer, the happier s/he is and that offering free shipping often affects sales in a positive manner.

Free shipping image designed by me

My cheeky direct e-mail image illustrates the happy little beaver whom got free shipping on his/her $75 or more order. Wood has become a prosumer product ever since the realization of globalization and environmental impact hit the beavers. They want to order from Green Bee Wood’s web site with wood that’s been fairly traded and a company commitment to wood as a renewable resource instead of clear-cutting rain forests in Brazil. Because of this, the beaver has committed himself/herself to a higher price point and free shipping is helping to offset the sting on his/her wallet. Because even as a prosumer, the beaver still budgets.

On the business and marketing side, Green Bee Wood knows that their products are targeted at the prosumer and can accept that quality of product and other good business practices do drive up their prices compared to Wood-4-Cheap. Beavers make up 75% of Green Bee Wood’s demographic. In the realm of free shipping, Green Bee Wood has a lot of options. They can offer free shipping across the board, at a certain price point based on their average order, for a limited time only, to offset sale tax charges, at a flat rate instead of free, etc.

Green Bee Wood has decided to offer free shipping slightly higher than their average order to bring average order sales a little higher, and they think it’s a urgency incentive for their customers to buy. Since they want to create a demand, they’ve decided that free shipping is only going to be offered for a limited time, approximately two weeks, to drive up sales in a traditionally slow winter season when beavers stay lodged down with their families and conserve energy.

This free shipping campaign is very successful for Green Bee Wood as they understand their demographics’ buying patterns and how free shipping can affect them. Free shipping helped a few more beavers make the final click to buy.

To use free shipping or not really depends on the company and their target demographic. As a huge company and largely consumer-based, I think it’s brilliant that Amazon.com offers it on all orders over $25 year round. However, for smaller companies targeting prosumers, there are pitfalls in that constantly running free shipping can flatten out sales. People don’t think they need to order then because it will still be on months later. There’s no urgency. Free shipping can be a useful tool, but like all tools, there’s an appropriate time to use it. The prosumer appreciates free shipping, but will appreciate it more if it’s not there all the time.

Give Me Wal-Mart or Give Me Death? Death: Life as a Prosumer and a Prosumer Marketer.

A friend recently linked an article, Identifying, Knowing and Retaining Your Customers, which talks about marketing towards the prosumer, not the consumer. The person who cares about what s/he’s buying, how its impacted the Earth, where it comes from, the company’s ethics, etc. I’d describe myself as a prosumer and in my daily job, I marketed online to the prosumer, instead of consumer.

Prosumer marketing is interesting as it’s almost the opposite of consumer. It’s specialization vs Wal-Martization.

The consumer wants a pack of 24 women’s athletic socks for $15 at Wal-Mart. S/he cares about prices and quantity. There also might be some attachment to jingles, logos, and brilliantly worked tag lines to cue up the buying instinct. I see the consumer as two different types of people:

The self-server consumer who straight up doesn’t care as long as s/he is getting the best deal. This is the mindless consumer who sometimes buys just to have stuff and has the income or credit lines to do it. The ones who buy disposable diapers and is never going to think twice; it’s convenient, cheap, easy, and always available.

The low-income consumer who’s more concerned about keeping food on the table and a roof over his/her family’s head than fair trade, being green, or shopping locally. This is not just the person buying from Wal-Mart, but likely the one who works for Wal -Mart too. At the current federal minimum wage, the low-income consumer must work 2.5 hours to buy that pack of women’s athletic socks.

On the other hand, the prosumer is the one who looks into the quality of the product, how it’s going to be use, where it’s made, and/or who made it being concerned about fair trade, being green, being organic, and/or shopping local. Different prosumers have different ideals and may mix and match. Lifestyle marketing works wonders on this crowd. A prosumer is usually willing to pay a higher price tag in order to achieve some quality of product.

For instance, when I went to buy an mp3 player, instead of buying a 2 MB generic one for $60, I bought the 160 GB video iPod for around $360 as I knew I would be using it a lot, needed a lot of space, possibly to watch video if flying somewhere, and know Apple not only pioneered the technology, but has good customer support. I’m a web designer, a geek, of course, my tech is going to match my lifestyle.

As a prosumer, I’m a big fan of specialization in the marketing and how e-commerce has greatly helped it out. If I want to know anything about any company, I get online. I look at the company’s web site, product information, and what other people are saying about that company. It’s way more exciting and hopeful than the Wal-Martization of everything.

I might work for a company, which is owned by another one that utilizes Wal-Martization to the extreme, but I can comfort myself with knowing that my job is to market to the person who perhaps cares about something besides bulk pricing and convenience. It’s more creative and stimulating than sticking giant yellow stars with new markdown prices on every graphic I make. (Been here, done that.)

Personally, I want to invest in a product that lasts. I want a product that’s being sold locally or manufactured by a smaller company. I want something that’s green and maybe recycled. I don’t want to feel dirty for what I prosume . I want something that speaks to me. I have no interest in 24 pairs of athletic socks; I would never use them or want them around. They’d end up in my Goodwill donation bag.

I haven’t bought something from a Wal-Mart in something like 7 years, even if my mother, who’s a bit of mix of the self-server and low-income consumer currently, likes to drag me into one when I visit her. I hope as globalization expands and more people have access to free trade and the prosumer voices will be loud enough to equality the marketplace.

Baby Shit

The subject isn’t pretty. It isn’t new. And it’s always there.¬†Garbage and more garbage, just piling up. I grew up down the street from a landfill, which sounds so much better than a hole in the ground where people dump their tons and tons of garbage.

Currently, I share recycle and garbage bins with my landlords. My landlords have a year old baby. They seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to put used baby diapers into the recycle bin because they are either too lazy to walk one foot to the garbage bin or somehow think that plastic baby diapers full of hazardous waste are recyclable. (I try not to dig too far into the psychology of my landlords because that’s a long and scary road.) I think about how their grandchildren, who hopefully won’t be born for another 25+ years, will be building their houses on piles of baby shit.

Their complete and total waste forces me think about garbage. It makes me think about how there are 6+ billion people on this planet and a heck of a lot of use were raised in plastic baby diapers. I wonder just how many people in Seattle are trying to recycle their babies’ diapers too. But it’s not just the plastic diapers. It’s the people and the consuming and the useless toxic waste. It’s that there are too many people on this planet, but everyone seems to feel entitled to pass along his/her DNA just because Tab A fits into Slot B or knowing how to use a turkey baster.

I know, I’m of the not having children, and if I do, there’s this thing called adoption, mindset. One of those plastic-baggie-washing self-righteous recycle and reuse freaks. I was 7-years-old and guilting my mother to use cloth diapers on my newborn youngest brother. I called her out again a few weekends with her love of paper plates.

I think about the company I work for and all the non-recyclable plastic packaging and the shipping and factory waste. I think about Wal-Marts and Urban Assault Vehicles (SUVs) and how no wonder the economies falling apart since most places seem to be run by college frat boys who majored in binge drinking. I drive myself nuts seeing broken down houses I’ll never be able to afford and front yards covered with invasive ivy and blackberries.

So I stop. I put on my blinders. I recycle my soy milk containers and turn off the lights. I stop listening to NPR for a week. I try to ignore the world that I can’t control and the people I can’t legal assault for trying to recycle baby shit. I leave an offering for Darwin and hope that the human race kills itself before it destroys Earth beyond repair.