November 4, 2011, 4:15 PM

Free shipping report: E-retailers get an early start this year

73% of top 100 e-retailers offered free shipping in some form this week.

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73 of the top 100 e-retailers listed in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide offered consumers some form of free shipping on their orders this week. This is up from 65 retailers that offered free shipping during the same week a year ago.

The editors of Internet Retailer subscribe to e-retailers’ promotional e-mails and newsletters and visit each e-retail site at least once a week to determine whether and how the Top 100 e-retailers offer free shipping during the holiday season.

The ways in which retailers offered free shipping varied. Nine e-retailers, including L.L. Bean (No. 21), Best Buy (No. 11), MicrosoftStore.com (No. 68) and Musician’s Friend (No. 44), offered free shipping on all orders. Toys ‘R Us (No. 29) and Nordstrom (No. 34) also offered free shipping on all orders this week; a year ago consumers had to make a minimum purchases of $100 with the retailers to qualify for free shipping.

Two additional retailers offered consumers free shipping on any size order if they at checkout entered a coupon code shown on the site. Saks Direct (No. 38) and Neiman Marcus (No. 39) offered free shipping on any size order with advertised coupon codes. Neiman Marcus offered the same offer last year, whereas Saks Direct required a minimum purchase of $150.

Following the e-retailers that offered free shipping on all orders, $25 was the minimum order value to qualify for free shipping, a threshold set by five retailers: Amazon.com (No. 1), SonyStyle (No. 14), Walgreens.com (No. 73), Drugstore.com (No. 46) and BarnesandNoble.com (No. 41). 18 retailers offered free shipping with minimum order thresholds ranging from $45 to $50, the most popular order price point to qualify for free shipping.

The highest order value threshold to qualify for free shipping came from fashionable apparel site Yoox.com (No. 67), which required a $200 minimum purchase. It was closely followed by Build.com (No. 100), which required a minimum purchase of $199 and RalphLauren.com (No. 70), which required a $195 purchase. These thresholds fall far below the highest order value threshold offered at the same time last year, $699 from Dell Inc (No. 4). Dell this week offered free shipping at $49.  

Several retailers with retail stores this week fielded free ship-to-store opportunities, including Bass Pro Shops (No. 86), which a year ago offered no free shipping opportunity. Five retailers touted the benefits of expedited shipping consumers get if they paid an annual fee to the e-retailer. Three of these five retailers, Football Fanatics (No. 98), Newegg.com (No. 12) and Williams-Sonoma (No. 25), also offered some form of free shipping without requiring membership.

The two retailers, TigerDirect.com (part of No. 23 Systemax Inc.) and Overstock.com (No. 27), that offered free shipping only if consumers signed up for a year-long membership were excluded from the count of retailers offering free shipping this week. Overstock.com is offering a free, 60-day trial membership to its loyalty program that would provide consumers with free shipping on their holiday orders. If consumers don’t cancel before the trial ends, they are charged a $20 fee.  The TigerDirect membership cost $49.99 annually.

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