Barnesandnoble.com Ups Free Delivery Ante

Discussion
Oct 29, 2003
George Anderson

Report and commentary by George Anderson


Barnes & Noble’s online store shoppers in some eastern states were given an added reason to place
an order when the books, music and gifts retailer sent an email earlier in the week announcing free overnight delivery on orders of $25 or more.


The free next day delivery service is available to shoppers in CT, DE, MD, NJ, RI, VT, and Washington, DC. The service is also available to some locations in MA, NY, and PA. Selected zip codes in New York City are eligible for same-day delivery.


Barnes & Noble’s guarantees orders placed by 11 a.m. (EST), Monday through Thursday will be delivered the next day by 7 p.m. Friday orders are delivered on Monday and weekend orders are shipped overnight for delivery on Tuesday.


Not all products are covered by the overnight shipping pledge. The retailer has placed a running figure logo next to products included in the free shipping offer. Shoppers click on standard shipping when they checkout to receive the offer.


Amazon.com, the chief rival to Barnes & Noble’s online venture, offers free ground shipping on orders of $25 or more. The company’s founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, has said free shipping has proven to be a worthwhile investment. “Customers love it. At the beginning of this year, we made that permanent. It’s a very expensive thing to do. But by working on cost structure, by not spending money on things like TV advertising, we can afford to do that, and the money goes into the hands of the customers. We’re going to continue to do that. I’m an absolute zealot about that.”


Moderator’s Comment: What does it take to develop a sustainable point of difference in the B2C e-tail business?


The point has been made in this forum and others that price is not a sustainable difference. Ultimately, free shipping is just another form of price discounting.
Barnes and Noble has matched Amazon’s $25 free shipping offer and anted up with overnight delivery for the same locations. The next step will be for an e-tailer to provide free
overnight delivery to all areas where services such as Fedex and UPS are available. What happens then?
[George
Anderson – Moderator
]

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