Is fast, free shipping still enough?
The online retailers are going through some more changes. Who will emerge as winners, and who will come out as losers? Let’s see!
Target used to have free shipping on $50, but this was changed to $25 in February 2015. This meant they had one of the lowest free shipping minimums out of the major retailers. However, as of May 7th, they have raised their free shipping threshold to $35. A lot of anime DVDs and Blu-rays are right around the $27 to $33 mark, so while these discs use to ship for free, now they require a filler item.
In addition, one of the benefits of having a REDCard was that cardholders got free shipping on all orders. Some items may now require a minimum purchase, similar to Amazon’s Add-on model.
Last summer, Walmart started introducing ShippingPass, their answer to Amazon Prime. For $49 a year, customers could get free two-day shipping on qualifying items. Earlier this year, Walmart abandoned the program and offered the same two-day shipping speed for any order of $35 or more.
A couple of weeks ago, Walmart also introduced Pickup Discount. Order online, swing by your local store when it’s ready, and you’ll save a bit more off of the current price. On a $1 deck of cards, you’ll save a nickel, but on larger items, you can save $2, $5, or even more. For shoppers who go to a Walmart store regularly, this is a nice way to save some money, especially since a lot of items still shipped to the store in two days.
In February 2016, Amazon disappointed many buyers when the free shipping threshold was raised to $49, up from $35. The $35 minimum had been in place since October 2013, and this jump to $49 was seen as a way to push people to Prime. Well, fast forward to February 2017. Almost certainly as a way to match Walmart, Amazon reduced the $49 requirement down to $35. (Book-only orders could ship on $25 purchase.)
But this past week came a change no one was expected. Without any official announcement, Amazon once again lowered the free shipping to $25. Only a few stores like Barnes & Noble or Lowe’s (with free sign-up) have lower minimums. Stores like Hot Topic require $25 just to ship to the store. That’s huge.
So What Does This Mean For Anime Fans?
Obviously, Amazon has become a lot more attractive to the average shopper. Finding $25 worth of merchandise is not that hard to find.
However, Amazon still has its drawbacks, including a new one brought up by this change.
First, Amazon does not have any low price guarantees. That means if you order something and the price drops shortly after you order, you have three options: 1) do nothing, 2) cancel and reorder, 3) return. (Unless you have a credit card with a price guarantee of course.) It’s very disappointing to have an order not even shipped out and see a lower price, or when Amazon has what is advertised as a big sale and then lower the price when the deal has ended. (This just happened a lot after their Tabletop Day Sale.) Compare this with Walmart where they will issue a refund as long as the item is within its return policy — up to 90 days. (Amazon’s return policy is 30 days.)
The other negative of the free shipping change is that this de-values Prime. Yes, Prime members get their item much faster and have other benefits, but if you don’t use Prime Video, getting a free Twitch channel subscription, or borrowing a book, then Prime is starting to lose its luster. Perks like the 20% preorder video games are easily replaced by (and surpassed by) Best Buy’s Gamers Club Unlocked, and those of us in rural areas are paying the same amount as those who can get items delivered in two hours in Prime Now-eligible areas. If Amazon wants more people to sign up for Anime Strike, then making their main feature of Prime look less appealing is not the way to go about it. Most anime discs cost over $25 anyway, and how many of you really need to have it in two days? As for manga, $25 is at worst, what, three volumes? Of course, items will likely be held until all are in stock, but you could always order something you actually need now.
Another cause for concern: now that Amazon is going to be footing the shipping bill on even more orders, will overall prices increase? That’s certainly a possibility, but the volume of orders may balance it out.
Competition is good for consumers. It’s hard to believe that just about a year ago, customers had to order twice as much in order to get free shipping at Amazon. I’m still set on Prime thanks to their Fire devices, but if the free shipping stays around $25, I would sorely be tempted to cancel my membership.
Will Walmart and Target respond to Amazon’s policy change? I wouldn’t be surprised if Target reverses course here soon; Walmart I imagine will push their two-day delivery for only $10 more worth of merchandise and their pickup discounts. I’m more curious to see if other retailers like Best Buy will respond. I would love Best Buy to drop around the $30 mark. I order a lot of portable games, and I probably would have gone through Best Buy instead of Amazon if I didn’t have to worry about coming up with a $3 filler thanks to Gamers Club Unlocked (drops down from $40 to $32). Come on, Best Buy!