May 31, 2011, 5:07 PM

Cowboy boot retailer spurs online conversion rates with free shipping offers

Sheplers, a multichannel retailer of Western wear, has found that free shipping helps it compete better in several states where some of its toughest competitors are located.

With competition for popular Western wear mounting in several states including Texas, Oklahoma and California, Sheplers Inc., a multichannel retailer of cowboy boots and related apparel that generates 30% of its sales online, figured it better trot out something new. So it tried free shipping on online orders, and it worked to drive up conversions, says Mark Hampton, chief operating officer.

Sheplers decided to experiment with free shipping after realizing that some of the states that produced the highest traffic to the e-commerce site,, also had the lowest conversion rates. That suggested online consumers were merely digital window shopping because of the abundance of Western wear retailers, including those with nearby bricks-and-mortar stores or web sites.

So in two tests in February and March the apparel retailer offered free shipping for orders placed by consumers from those high-traffic states. Sheplers used testing and optimization services from Monetate to conduct the trials.

Conversions increased 10% in the first test, and 6% in the second. The free shipping offer encouraged customers who had selected items to complete their purchases, leading to an increase in sales, Hampton says.

"The offer was a tipping point for people who had already put things into the cart," he says, adding that the retailer plans to test free shipping again this month in the run-up to Father's Day.

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