What Is A ‘Free Plus Shipping Funnel’?

Stock image for Free Plus Shipping article.


What Is A ‘Free Plus Shipping Funnel’ and How Does It Work?

In today’s e-commerce world, eye-catching ads stating  “Free Plus Shipping” are extremely popular, and the term’s ubiquity grows with each passing day.

The free plus shipping funnel is a marketing strategy based on the offer of a free item to clients. In return for this free product, the merchants only ask that the clients pay for the cost of shipping. 

Based on its popularity and widespread adoption by numerous companies, it is safe to assume that the free plus shipping model can lead to a significant amount of success when done right, and this article will go over it in detail. 


A Free Plus Shipping Offer – How Does It Work?

A free plus shipping funnel appears to be a great way to bring in new buyers to a business for a number of reasons. Firstly they are a great low-end offer without the usual price friction. Secondly, the attraction to potential ‘leads’ or customers is obvious.

This case study as published by Nick Tubis on the Forbes website illustrates the Free Plus Shipping principle in action:

With the free plus shipping funnel, you offer your website visitors an item — a book, script, USB drive, or something else that is attractive to your dream client — for free, in exchange for their shipping and email addresses and payment for the delivery of the item.

Here is how the math works in my business: I spend $25 to sell an irresistible product that solves one problem my dream client has and I only charge $1 for. So on the surface, it looks terrible. However, my average cart value is $30 because of the immediate upsells that I offer to find hyper-active buyers.


Example: The Clickfunnels Free Plus Shipping Funnel 

Let’s take Clickfunnels for example. Clickfunnels is an online sales funnel building software that helps businesses in generating leads and increasing online sales. 

Today, Clickfunnels is famous for it’s “free plus shipping” funnels, but this was not always the case.

A Forbes article by the author Robert Adams states that the Clickfunnels co-founder, Russell Brunsonmade hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling a potato gun guide on how to build a potato gun, complete with schematics and DVD. Yes, a potato gun.

Years later, Brunson has moved to more sophisticated products (like Clickfunnels) and funnels (the free plus shipping funnel in question). 


Clickfunnels Expert Secrets book Russell Brunson - image.


Here is how the ‘Free Plus Shipping’ strategy might be used to boost the sales process for a hypothetical online business: 

Let’s take a made-up entrepreneur, “Henry”, for instance. 

Henry’s target market consists of men, in their mid-20s to 40s, who are often away from home – attending seminars or hanging out with friends on a weekend getaway.

This leads Henry to come up with the idea of an affordable grooming kit that would come in handy for his customers. He decides to market this through the Free Plus Shipping Funnel and proceeds to set up a website to market it in this manner.

He uses Clickfunnels to optimize his website’s landing pages using their simple drag and drop editing tool, and plans to find customers via Native Ads.

Henry adds a 2-step order form element to his order page to offer the free mini-grooming kit (if they just pay shipping). Those who add the free mini-grooming kit to their cart are immediately offered various ‘upsells’.

By offering this best deal package Henry gives his clients the chance to spend more money by simply increasing their cart value. 

Even if they don’t take the upsells, they have now entered Henry’s “funnel” and he can continue to market to them in the future via email marketing, re-targeting ads, and other methods.


Below is a video by Russell Brunson (referenced above) on the ‘Free Plus Shipping’ strategy:


Pros and Cons of The Free Plus Shipping Model

The free plus shipping model has proven to be lucrative for online businesses in the modern e-commerce era. It has allowed both big companies and solo entrepreneurs to increase their revenues in a manner attractive to customers.


Free plus shipping funnel example image.
An example of a free plus shipping offer being advertised on Facebook.


Here are some of the advantages associated with the free plus shipping funnel:


  • -One of the main benefits of using the free plus shipping model would seem to be that the word “FREE” hooks people. This can increase ctr’s and lower ad costs, and also increase conversion rates.
  • -The reduced expectations associated with free plus shipping offers makes drop shipping more feasible. Drop shipping in turn takes off the hassle of keeping track of or storing inventory. With drop shipping, the merchant does not keep goods in stock but instead transfers its customer’s orders and shipment information to either a manufacturer or a supplier. They are then in charge of shipping the goods directly.
  • -The types of offers used in free plus shipping funnels are typically very inexpensive or are digital in nature, reducing logistical costs compared to high-ticket items.
  • -The free plus shipping offer has a distinctively attractive appeal to new customers who see it as a risk-free opportunity and are therefore more likely to pay. Introducing new products also becomes easier as customers have gained trust in the vendor.


Here are some of the risks associated with the free plus shipping funnel:

  • -It is crucial for the marketer to keep careful track of the numbers to measure the success of the method. Since the marketer will often be losing money on the front end, accurate tracking of “lifetime customer value” is of extreme importance lest the strategy lead to overall losses.
    -Businesses tend to use this approach on a short term basis or as one small part of their overall strategy. It is difficult to build an entire business around the strategy since it often involves short term losses.
  • -The free plus shipping model is best suited for inexpensive products that are easy to ship. For instance, a merchant cannot offer a product free of any cost and then surprise the customer with a $50 shipping fee. This approach will not, in all likelihood, spark trust between the brand and its customers 🙂 In effect, striking a fine balance between the free plus shipping model and customers’ expectations can often be somewhat tricky.
  • -Planning to offer free plus shipping without drop shipping the products will drive up costs due to storage fees, thereby minimizing profits.



Many online businesses use the “free plus shipping” strategy to lower their advertising costs, improve conversion rates, and more effectively gain customer trust and engagement.

At this point it has been a common tactic with the world of online e-commerce for at least a decade, suggesting it is more than a passing “fad”. And will continue to be a cornerstone of online marketing strategy long into the future.