Amazon just can’t quite seem to decide what the threshold for free shipping should be.
About four years ago, Amazon decided that $25 was not quite enough of a floor — and raised the free shipping minimum to $35. Then, last year, hit by the very high cost of shipping, decided that $35 was still perhaps too good a deal —and so the price went up again, to $49.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Bentonville, Arkansas, Walmart was building out its methods of competing with Amazon. It tried its own membership program — but pulled the plug after a short pilot period and instead decided to drop the spend required to $35.
Amazon was having none of that being undercut on price — and so it too dropped its free shipping threshold. Walmart did not drop its minimum order further — instead, it turned to the massive power base that is having a physical retail outlet within 15 minutes of 90 percent of America. It made consumers a new offer — order online and get free delivery, or come into the store to pick up your online order and get an additional discount.
Obviously, Amazon does not have physical stores with which to answer that directly.
But it does have cheaper shipping.
Amazon had not publicly announced the new drop in the free shipping threshold to $25 — but sharp-eyed shoppers have already noticed the change posted up on its website.
So what’s next — will Walmart let every online shopper pet a puppy for 15 minutes for all orders over $10? Will Amazon employ a fleet of singing delivery men who will serenade you with “You Are My Sunshine” every time they drop off a package? Will the cost of online shipping eventually drop down to the point that firms literally start paying customers to take deliveries of packages?
Then again, if you’d asked us yesterday, we would have said Amazon lowering the price of free shipping twice in three months sounded unlikely, too.