Free Gifts That Keep On Giving
By Matt Pillar, editor in chief
My Grandpa was a pack rat and a sucker for a gadget. He had an impressive collection of trinkets and token gifts he’d received from door-to-door salesmen and catalog retailers over the years. He didn’t sew, but he could have made a quilt with all the fabric swatch samples he’d amassed from Blair mailings. And, when the Schwan’s Frozen food man added Grandpa’s rural Pennsylvania home to his sales route and stopped by with an introduction and a free box of ice cream on a stick, Gramps thought he’d found his new best friend.
There’s somewhat of a revival happening in terms of free gifts and samples in retail, marked by cutting-edge cross-channel retailers putting a new spin on the old shoe brush salesman’s gimmick. And, according to some recent research, it’s working.
Last month, Harris Interactive released a report commissioned by IDR Marketing Partners, which revealed that two in five Americans are very-to-extremely likely to purchase more often from an e-commerce site after receiving a free gift, while 40% said they’re “somewhat likely” to. The survey also found that consumers are 90% more likely to purchase more frequently from an online retailer who offers an unexpected offer or free gift sample with order deliveries. Some 65% of those consumers said they’re likely to share that positive experience with their online peers, while 50% are likely to talk about it with their friends in person.
Free gifts clearly offer retailers an opportunity for competitive differentiation, especially in light of Harris’ findings that fewer than half of online retailers currently offer them. The study suggests that if you don’t currently engage in a free sample/gift program, it pays to start with women, who are far more likely to share their positive experiences than men are.
With the consumer benefit of free gifting established, lets address your primary concern. “Sure, of course our customers love freebies,” you’re thinking. “And yeah, giving stuff away would certainly create buzz,” you say. “But we’re in the business of selling, not doling out free stuff.” That’s where cooperative marketing companies like IDR Marketing Partners (which commissioned the study) step in. IDR connects its retail clients with brand manufacturers who are eager to distribute samples and freebies to a large and targeted potential customer base, and who have the budget to do so. The company aligns the manufacturers’ samples and gifts with its retail clients’ customer demographics, helps the two companies develop a campaign, and manages the logistics of fulfillment.
Running shoe retailers give away free socks and energy drinks. Personal care retailers give away hair conditioners and moisturizing lotion. Pharmacies give away razors and OTC medication. In the end, you the retailer pay only for a service that delights customers and, according to the research, gets them talking and keeps them coming back.