Free shipping to European countries – part one

How to effectively communicate free shipping to a European Customer.
Free shipping to European countries

What is this article about?

Good news doesn’t mean anything if the receiver doesn’t comprehend it or doesn’t perceive it as such. Standardized global marketing campaigns have certainly created successful and profitable outcomes for many brands with the downsides of falling short on the expectations of those – many – customers who thought the same conditions applied to all regardless of their geographical positioning. 

When it comes to Europe we can distinguish two kinds of consumers: the ones that made an unaware purchase and were therefore requested to pay additional fees in order to receive the product (import fees, taxes and courier brokerage fees in some cases) and the ones who abandoned their carts after discovering details about extra fees to be paid. 

Both types of consumers are now aware of such risks when purchasing products from international brands and in result have trained their eye to ignore their Ads. International brands that want to expand to European markets and intend to keep stocks on the European territory in order to offer free and super fast delivery should actively promote the lack of taxes or import fees for their products when advertising to the single countries.

They should promote the absence of additional fees just like they promote the product’s wow factor or its problem-solving quality. 

By doing so they will see differences in their Click Through Rate (CTR) and Conversion Rate (CR) percentages because based on such a premise, the European consumer will actually consider to interrupt their navigation path and check out the online store. 

A question for you. What’s a word that sounds sexy no matter what language it comes in? The word FREE of course! 

We all know that “Free” is the magic marketing word that anyone should be using, but when it comes to e-commerce, FREE SHIPPING is the supreme universal passe-partout of conversions. 

When selling to European countries, it makes no exception in exercising that undeniable power thus, getting prospects to take action and become customers. Actually Free Shipping matters even more to a European customer – we will soon see why – therefore the following is so much more than advice and if you have a brand and are looking to expand to or within Europe, you will want to bookmark this page for future reference. 

In fact, once again, when it comes to selling to Europe, the general marketing rule tells only 50% of the story. There is history pertaining to the old continent’s relation with foreign brands and the application of the “free shipping” sales technique you must be aware of.

The problem of extra fees – Details matter 

A large number of European shoppers have personal history with the “free shipping” tag when promoted by international brands. Unpleasant experiences all have in common the fact that the product (typically bought through social media advertising or marketplace) arrives with additional fees to pay. While it is true that custom duties and taxes are not technically included in the shipping costs, the “free shipping” banner often induces the customers to take action based on a reality they are not fully aware of or that doesn’t coincide with the actual one. This to the point that if they had known how things really were, they would have never made that purchase. 

The consequential feeling is a sense of frustration, the helpless feeling of being scammed, the consciousness of having adhered to a deal that wasn’t actually a deal and the subsequent loss of reputation, Customer LifeTime Value (CLTV) and Net Promotion Score (NPS) for the brand. 

In other words a lose-lose situation. 

Nowadays the average European customer is more aware of these risks – once you get burnt you remember, right? -.  Therefore when in front of the Ad of an international brand or an Ad which is not in their native speaking language, there is a huge tendency of skipping or ignoring it, no matter how greatly in target the viewer is. 

This has certainly had a huge impact on Click Through Rate percentages (CTR%)  as well as Conversion Rates (CR%) with a subsequent waste of the advertising budget invested. The viewers that don’t want to relive the unpleasant experience, train their eyes to become blind to Ads that fall within the aforementioned categories because there is no trust. 

Unclear shipping conditions in the Brand’s website or product page only have the effect of further harming conversion rates and increasing bounce rates. In fact it very often happens that customers will abandon the website if the homepage or the product page lack at least a visible direct link or explicit details about import charges.

How to overcome this particular form of Ad blindness and reduce Bounce rates related to the fear of additional charges that the consumers feel they cannot calculate ahead of time?

1. Transparency isn’t enough

If your warehouse ISN’T on the European territory you must be very transparent about it, nothing new this far. State right away on the homepage of your website where free shipping with no additional fees applies to and provide your visitors with a direct link to the section of your website dedicated to shipping conditions. Here you can be more speculative and specify from where your products ship and also add a table that list destination countries and eventual specific shipping conditions. If there are any additional fees like import, tax or brokerage fees, make sure this is stated. It might be a deterrent for conversions from certain countries, but it will create overall trust and prevent complaints or bad reviews. 

If your warehouse is on the European territory you need to specify in every strategic point of your website that products are shipped for free and come with no additional costs. In fact the burden of an unequivocal communication of such details is on the Brand as the average customer that accesses the online store of an international brand will assume that since it’s an international brand the product will arrive with custom fees to be paid. By specifying – even redundantly – that European customers can benefit from free shipping as well as duty free shipping, you will completely get rid of that form of friction.

2 – Advertise free shipping and duty-free shipping

The alpha you were waiting for: if you are shipping your products from a European warehouse and have therefore imported your stocks, you can advertise the totally free shipping as a product feature. Just like jam without preservatives, cakes with no palm oil or shampoo without parabens, free shipping with no import charges is a strong trigger for the European customer. 

The mechanism is the same: absence-focused claims are effective because the consumers believe they have the right to access healthy food or beauty products that don’t interfere with their health.  But nevertheless, they are fully aware that the majority of products out there contain harmful ingredients. This becomes a huge pain that brings the consumer to give more importance to something that should be totally normal. To give more importance to something that the product doesn’t have rather than the actual product qualities. Likewise, free shipping should mean free shipping, but the European customer knows that it generally comes with IFs and BUTs. 

By specifying in your Ads that free shipping actually means free shipping before even saying what product you are advertising – there is targeting for that – you will have a customer listening and giving even more attention to the following sales message. 


The world of online sales presents new opportunities every day, but new barriers arise as well and are related to customer expectations for product quality, delivery and the overall buying experience. For Europe, when it comes to shipping, international brands must put themselves in their prospective customer’s shoes. Hence, they are not only expected to deliver products in Amazon-comparable times, but to keep their word on the fact that free shipping – when offered – is actually free, without making any distinctions between delivery itself and additional fees like taxes or import fees because at the end of the day, delivery is delivery, at least in the eye of the consumer. 

With this said, transferring stocks to Europe in order to tackle its markets seems like the only solution for an eCommerce business that wants to be competitive and expand in 2022. 

Borderl3ss is the Logistics-as-a-service solution that eCommerce owners and DTC brands use to develop their business on European territory. With the necessary range of services and features, we can allow you to reach your expansion goals by putting at your disposal all the resources you actually need. Flexible warehousing added to a technology that can adapt to ever-changing market conditions plus a team with years of experience in all areas of the eCommerce supply chain, make Borderl3ss the final choice for many fast growing online businesses. 

We are the partners you were looking for, ready to play a key role in your European expansion. 

One software for all your sales channels and one setup for both Prepaid and Cash-On-Delivery orders, in accordance to the necessities of your customers and their buying behaviors. Faster than plug and play, to start working with Borderl3ss all you need to do is access the website and create your first inbound shipment. Want to talk to the fulfillment experts at Borderl3ss?

Schedule a meeting today by clicking here.

Robin Calandri

Robin Calandri

DTC Fulfillment Blog

Find all the information you need to optimize your European fulfillment operations. 

Recent Posts