How to Do Free + Shipping Funnels Without Attracting Freebie Seeking Timewasters | Shoptimized

It’s no secret that free + shipping offers or “tripwire” offers are a surefire way to rapidly acquire new customers and gain market share. But do they bring you the wrong kind of customers?

First, let’s talk about how these types of offers work…


These offers or promotions are essentially where you give the product away for nada or a nominal amount and simply charge for shipping and handling.

The phrase “tripwire” was coined by the legendary marketer, Perry Belcher, and he describes it as “an irresistible, super low-risk offer that converts prospects into buyers.”

The ultimate tripwire offer from Columbia House Records ran for 20-odd years where you could get 13 records or tapes (and latterly CD’s) for just $1 when you joined their music club. They were soon copied by the likes of BMG who offered a similar subscription program with a tripwire offer of their own. By 1994, 15 percent of all discs in the U.S. were sold by these types of music clubs.

But for a tripwire offer like this to work, you have to be able to withstand a small loss or if your product costs are low enough, just breaking even for a period of time.

Columbia House knew they could afford to give away 13 records for $1 as an introductory offer or tripwire because they knew their metrics. They were spending around $15 to acquire a customer and after the introductory period, and a couple of months of charging full price, they would be in profit.

Music fans at the time found it hard to say no to the offer.

Columbia House Records ran this type of tripwire offer for over two decades before digital streaming and downloads finally killed them off.

So, what makes a good tripwire offer?

Well, if you haven’t guessed by now, your tripwire needs to have a super-low barrier of entry and be an impulse buy. Anything that purchasers have to deliberate over won’t work.

And as with any product you’re selling whether it’s free or full price, the easier it is to understand and explain, the easier it is to sell. Don’t try and sell something people don’t know they need.

Not only that, but your offer should appeal to an “irrationally passionate audience.” Think about it, if the product is too broad in its appeal, it’s harder to make the funnel profitable because the core product you’re leading into isn’t aimed at a niche audience.

This laser pointer putting-aid could make the perfect tripwire for golfers.

Start with the end in mind

Before you decide on your tripwire offer, you need to think about what your core offer is—what you’re going to cross-sell to them eventually. It can be another physical product or it can be a newsletter or even a membership site.

And this is where most people go wrong with running tripwire offers on their Shopify stores…

They choose a tripwire offer that doesn’t naturally lead-in to the cross-sell. Think about it, it would be easy to do a Free + Shipping offer on a phone cover but it doesn’t dictate that the buyer will want to buy the cross-sell.

You’re going to end up luring a lot of people to your site that wants the free phone cover but aren’t motivated enough to spend money on your cross-sell offer. Not only does this mean that your funnel isn’t profitable but it also trains your Facebook pixel to target cheapskates and time wasters.

The tripwire purchase has to signify the buyer intent for your core offer. So if you’re selling golf gear, for example, a free laser pointer putting aid makes sense as a tripwire. This is because golf fanatics self-identify themselves as interested in golf gear by buying the tripwire offer.

What makes the perfect tripwire product?

First and foremost your tripwire needs to have a high perceived value. What’s more is that when the buyer gets it, it needs to feel valuable, not cheap crap. If it’s cheap and nasty, they’ll get buyer’s remorse and you’ve wasted your time and money and worst of all blown your reputation.

Make sure you always get a sample first, even if you have to buy it from Amazon to get it quicker than waiting for a Chinese supplier to ship it.

Also, make sure the packaging isn’t just bubblewrap, it needs to come in attractive packaging.

Here’s what I have found to perform best:

  • Jewelry
  • Bumper stickers i.e. Vegan for life
  • Passion focused gadgets i.e. golf putting-aid
  • Passion focused tools i.e. survival can opener
  • T-Shirts

It also helps if the tripwire product is “useful but incomplete” as Perry Belcher describes it. Although it might have a strong appeal, you don’t want your tripwire to be something that gives them everything they need to achieve the desired outcome. Otherwise, your cross-sells and upsells will flop.

Market penetration

If you want to break into a new market and rapidly acquire new customers, a tripwire is an easy way to do this. And if you get the offer right, your competitors will be left in your dust because they often don’t understand the mindset of not profiting straightaway.

Here’s the thing, buyers are worth 10x more than prospects so if you can stand to lose money for 35-60-days, for example until your cross-sells kick in, then your competitors will be left scratching their heads.

You can also use tripwires to re-ignite cold customer or prospect lists. It’s an easy way to convert them into active buyers and get their attention again.

Two ways to instantly profit from your tripwire offer

A big mistake a lot of Shopify store owners make with their tripwires is charging a premium price for the shipping to avoid losing money on the front-end sale. Most of the time unreasonably high shipping costs leave a bad taste in your customers’ mouths and blow the sale all together or at least mean you’ll never get repeat business.

The better way is to offer reasonable shipping cost and then turn the loss into a profit with an immediate cross-sell or upsell. This can be done either on the checkout page or post-checkout once you’ve secured the initial sale. This way, your average order value shoots up and you’re in profit sooner and you can afford to spend more to acquire a new customer to stave off your competition.

The most effective first upsell is offering more of the same thing like do on their checkout page: offers a quantity upsell to turn their tripwire from a loss-leader to a profitable campaign.

You should also test offering the quantity upsell post-checkout instead: offers a quantity upsell post-checkout.

If more of the same thing doesn’t make sense, then a bigger, better version of the tripwire product tends to convert well too.

So, if your tripwire is a credit card knife, cross-sell them a tactical knife like Although it’s still a survival product, cross-selling a tactical flashlight would not work so well because it’s not what brought them there to start with. have perfected their funnel and sold millions of credit card knives as a tripwire.

How do I create high-converting tripwire funnels on Shopify?

Of course, an e-commerce platform like Shopify doesn’t naturally lend itself to creating funnels, it’s not what it was built for. Luckily, Funnel Buildr allows you to create tripwire funnels (and even regular product funnels via their Shopify app. This way you can create full-blown funnels with upsells, cross-sells and even downsells using their simple drag-and-drop editor.

So, grab yourself a copy of Funnel Buildr and test a tripwire offer today, just one winning tripwire funnel could transform your business!