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Shipping Out

If you can afford to join the fray, offering online customers free shipping may help you compete.

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This story appears in the June 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

While free shipping has been an online promotional tool since the Internet's earliest days, the idea really picked up steam last year when Amazon.com began experimenting with it as a full-time service. Initially, the giant Seattle-based online retailer offered free shipping to customers whose purchases totaled $99 or more. The company later lowered the minimum to $49, and then to $25 last fall--its current offering. (There are some exceptions, however, including apparel, video games and accessories, baby products and certain oversized items.)

Amazon.com is not the only company to offer some form of free shipping to customers. BizRate.com, a shopping comparison site that tracks consumer spending across 2,000 Web sites, says there are currently 183 sites with active promotions, ranging from free shipping all the time on every item to free shipping on a variety of items or orders for a limited time.

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