More online retailers than ever chose to entice customers with free delivery offers over Christmas. It’s something that web shoppers have pointed to as a major factor in their purchase decisions.

Retailers who hadn’t previously done so, started offering it, while others like Amazon dropped their threshold for free delivery. We have previously advocated this as a sales driver, as well as being useful bait for marketing campaigns, so did it work for etailers in Xmas 2008?

I have some more data from Foresee Results’s Satisfaction Index, which looked at the top 30 UK retailers over Christmas, this time looking at the effects of free delivery offers. It looked at 7,000 visitors to the top 30 websites. Findings include:

Free delivery is a factor in choosing one etailer over another

Over half said that they choose to buy from one retailer over a competitor because they were offering free delivery, which echoes the results of similar surveys on the subject, and reinforces the benefits of free shipping offers.

Delivery charges matter in deciding whether to buy online or offline

It seems that the cost of delivery puts some shoppers off shopping online; 17% said that after researching online they choose a retailer’s store over their website for this reason.

Reasons for buying offline

When choosing to buy online instead of instore, after factors like convenience, cheaper prices, and the ability to compare, 31% said free delivery offers persuaded them to buy online.

Free delivery has little effect on customer satisfaction levels

Interestingly, the survey doesn’t show any major differences in terms of customer satisfaction, intent to purchase again from a retailer or recommend to others, whether e-commerce sites offered free shipping or not: 

Free delivery

Still, these figures show the value of offering free shipping as a sales driver, and retailers should consider this as a sales tool, even if they offer it for a limited period over Christmas as both Tesco and Amazon did, or as an enticement to spend more than a certain amount.

There are other good reasons to offer free shipping too. Plenty of web users are searching for the terms ‘free delivery’ or ‘free shopping’, a trend which peaks around the Christmas shopping period, so offering this promotion and optimising for these terms can make it a useful SEO strategy.

Graham Charlton is Senior Reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.