What better way to show customers that you care than to send them a customer appreciation gift? Your competitors might try to win over customers with stale “thank you” emails. You, on the other hand, can leave a deep impression.
The trouble with thank-you gifts is figuring out what to send. You can’t choose something that’s too expensive, nor can you pick something that might be seen as worthless. You have to walk a thin line between price and practicality when selecting thank-you gift ideas.
How to Use Gifts for Marketing?
While the explicit purpose of a customer appreciation gift is to show you care, it has another motive as well: to market your online store. You certainly want customers to feel happy and appreciated, but it would also be nice if they were to recommend your store to their friends.
To use customer appreciation gifts as a marketing tactic, there are a number of things you need to keep in mind.
Gifts vs. discounts
Using discounts and offers to maximize sales is old hat in e-commerce. The question to ask is: how does a discount compare against a gift in terms of marketing impact?
To answer this question, you’ll have to consider two things:
- How often you offer discounts: The perceived value of a discount depends on how frequently you offer it. If you have frequent sales and offers, customers might not be too enthusiastic about yet another discount, no matter how steep.
- Discount value and conditions: A steep discount with liberal terms might end up costing you more than a free gift. On the other hand, if the discount is too low with strict terms, customers might not be interested.
Interestingly, research in consumer psychology indicates that people prefer to get more rather than spend less. A free gift might have higher perceived value since it gives them more.
Of course, this only applies if you’re actually telling customers that you’re giving them a gift. This brings us to the next point.
Explicit vs. secret gifts
Should you tell customers about the gift or should you just send them a surprise?
There are pros and cons to each approach. Telling customers upfront might convince them to make a purchase, especially if they see the gift as a “deal”. At the same time, it robs you of the customer delight that comes with a surprise gift.
What approach you use will depend on what you hope to achieve with the gift. If your goal is to delight customers, build loyalty, and increase word of mouth (including social media), choose a surprise gift.
On the other hand, if you want to use gifts as an incentive to buy more, tell customers about it upfront.
Gifting to some vs. gifting to all customers
Another dilemma is figuring out who to gift — some customers or all of them?
Gifting everyone has the obvious cost disadvantage. You might also not realize many benefits from gifting people who are inactive on social media or unlikely to recommend you to friends.
At the same time, gifting only a few customers might make them feel special — at the cost of other customers. Customer B might wonder why Customer A got a gift and he didn’t. This can create resentment for your brand — the exact opposite purpose of gifting.
Maximize the impact of gifting
To get the most out of your customer appreciation gifts, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Customers buy more when there is a “mystery” involved in the purchase, as one University of Miami study discovered. Keeping the gift a secret can help in this regard.
- Customers who receive something free and unexpected are driven to shop more, according to one study. Thus, it might be worth it to lose money upfront on a sale by giving a gift. You can make up for it with repeat purchases.
- Giving away a freebie creates immediate word of mouth, according to an article in the Journal of Marketing. That is especially true if the gift is the first experience the customer has with your brand. Thus, besides your top customers, you can also target first-time buyers when giving away gifts to create a positive first impression.
- Focus on gifting customers who are active on social media or have a history of sharing your stuff. Prompt them — gently — to upload pictures with their gifts on their favorite social network.
- Consider donating to charity on behalf of the customer instead of giving away a gift. Research suggests that charity donations work better than a practical gift, especially when the original purchase is frivolous in nature.
These are just some tactics to maximize the impact of your gifting. Your next challenge is to select the right gift. We’ll share some rules for gift selection below.
How to Select Customer Appreciation Gifts?
A customer appreciation gift is usually something physical, useful, and related to your business in some capacity. It has a simple purpose: to thank customers for their business. Whether the gift elicits a “wow” or “eh” will depend on the quality of the gift.
There are a number of rules you must follow when selecting a customer appreciation gift:
It should have perceived value: Above everything else, the gift must have perceived value. Even if it is cheap, it must fulfill a need or appear valuable to the customer.
It should be useful: A good gift is usually one that serves some practical purpose. Souvenirs and trinkets that only take up space are easily forgotten. A useful gift will remind the customer of your business every time they use it.
It should be easy to store and transport: No customer wants to deal with an unwanted gift that takes up too much storage space. Neither do you want to worry about the hassle of transporting a large gift. Always pick something that is small and easy to transport.
It should be durable and lasting: A gift that is perishable or easy to destroy will quickly lose its value. Avoid fragile items or anything that might spoil over a couple of weeks.
It should be related to the business: An ideal gift is related to the business in some way so that it reminds the customer of you. If you run a fashion store, select a fashion accessory, not a book on macroeconomics.
It should be harmless: Lastly, the gift shouldn’t trigger allergies, have dangerous, sharp edges, or pose a choking hazard to children. Ask: can this gift cause problems for anyone in my customer’s household (especially old people and children)? If the answer is “yes”, pick something else.
19 Thank-You Gift Ideas for Your Customers
Now that you have a list of rules for selecting gifts, here are a few ideas you can choose from.
1. Write personalized handwritten notes
A popular and extremely affordable gifting option is to simply send a personalized handwritten note to your customers. Make the message unique, personalized, and most importantly, authentic. Use pen and paper, not a printed message. It costs next to nothing except for your time.
2. Send flowers
Although perishable, flowers are a universally liked gift item. They’re also mostly brand agnostic, i.e. you don’t have to worry whether they align with your brand. Plus, the visual spectacle of a bunch of free flowers makes for a good photo opportunity and the social shares that go with it. Giving flowers to every customer is expensive, but if you pick the recipients (the most loyal customers, those with huge follower base on social media) and the occasion (birthday, Women’s Day) flowers can do magic.
The only time flowers won’t work is if you’re targeting young, single male customer groups who usually don’t have an affinity for them. Remember to pick non-allergic flowers for your gifts.
3. Offer books
Books might not make an obvious choice for a gift, but for the right customer group, they can be a fantastic option. A relevant book not only shows that you understand the customer, but it will also stick with them for a long time, reminding them of your brand.
Further, books have a brand of their own. Sending a non-fiction book that pioneers new ideas can get customers to think of your brand as “innovative” as well. For best results, send non-fiction and non-controversial books.
4. Give charitable gifts
Making a charitable donation on behalf of the customer can work well as a gift idea, especially if your customers are eco-conscious and philanthropically-inclined. Just make sure that the charity is well-recognized, and that there is sufficient proof of the donation.
5. Offer surprise upgrades
Win over customers by offering them a free upgrade to their existing purchase. This works particularly well if the upgrade is similar to but better than their current purchase. Just ensure that you ask customers before making the upgrade — some might specifically want a lower-tier model.
6. Help customers learn something
One of the best gifts you can give customers is the gift of learning. Perhaps you can put together a series of lessons to help them make the most of the purchase (such as a guitar store gifting free music lesson CDs). Or perhaps you can offer them courses on topics that complement the purchase (such as a handicrafts store offering a free pottery class).
7. Gift an experience
An experience — a spa package, tickets to a local event, etc. — is a great way to make yourself memorable. Ensure that the experience aligns with your brand and customer profile, i.e. don’t gift tickets to a metal concert if your customers are 50-year old women. Also, pick an experience that is easy to reach, has broad appeal, and doesn’t cost too much to dent your profitability.
8. Send a birthday gift
Sending customers gifts on special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries can help you win customer loyalty. It shows that you care enough to remember them.
Remember that once you start sending birthday gifts, customers might come to expect them every year. So pick something that is affordable enough for repeat gifting. A simple handwritten card works well enough for most customers.
9. Offer a treat
Cookies, chocolates, candy — sweet, customizable, and widely-loved treats make for a fantastic customer appreciation gift. Most customers will appreciate a tin of freshly baked cookies along with their purchase. You can even customize the packaging to include a personalized message or your brand logo.
The only thing you have to look out for is food allergies. Try to avoid any treat with common allergens such as peanuts.
10. Feature customers on social media
Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, and your customers are no different. If you have a popular social channel, featuring your customers or their projects can be an unusual “gift”. This tactic works best if the customer has uploaded a picture of your product or interacted with you on social media before. It tells them — and your social media audience — that you’re listening.
11. Share local products
Gifting customers local products (such as a locally sourced food item) works wonderfully well for two reasons:
- It portrays your business as a “friend” to other local small businesses, thus improving your brand perception.
- It shows customers that you care enough about them to personalize the gift as per their location.
Partner up with a local business to offer these products. Your customers will appreciate them, as will local businesses.
12. Create an exclusive group
How can you make your customers feel special? Simple: by creating an exclusive, invite-only group for your top customers. This can be something as simple as a closed Facebook group. Offer deep discounts unavailable elsewhere to emphasize the exclusivity of the group.
13. Offer a free consultation
Valuable advice can be a type of gift as well, especially in industries known to be difficult to approach. If you sell clothes, for instance, you can offer a freestyle consultation. If you sell fitness equipment, you can offer a custom diet plan and workout routine.
14. Send coupons to local businesses
Sending customers coupons to local businesses has the same effect as gifting local products. It shows customers that you care about small businesses. It also demonstrates that you’re willing to personalize gifts for each customer.
Find a local business that can offer something related (but not competitive) to your brand. Work out a deal with them where your customers can get a discount on future purchases.
15. Give away a free product from your catalog
A perennial gifting favorite is to simply give away a cheap but useful product from your product catalog. This product should be low cost yet must have perceived value to the customer. Also make sure that it is related to the original purchase, example: free socks with a pair of shoes.
16. Throw a party for special customers
Another way to make customers feel special is to throw a party or host a meetup. This works best if you have a lot of customers in the same location. Warm-up customers to the idea of a party by inviting them to an exclusive group first (such as a Facebook first). Once they’ve all gotten to know each other a bit, invite them out to a party.
It might be expensive, but it will be an experience your customers won’t forget. Plus, all the social media updates from it will do wonders for your word of mouth.
17. Gift a low-maintenance potted plant
A small potted plant makes for a great gift. Something low maintenance and hardy — such as a cactus — not only looks good but also emphasizes your “green” credentials. If your customers are eco-conscious, this can be an affordable and memorable gift to send.
Alternatively, send customers plant seeds or even small DIY growing kits ( with seeds, soil, and pot).
18. Give away free swag
A staple in gifting is to give away free swag — t-shirts, bags, notebooks, etc. Try not to include your logo on them. Doing so turns the swag from a gift to an overt marketing tool. Instead, pick something that reflects your brand’s values or products yet can be worn publicly.
19. Make one customer feel special
Instead of sending an ordinary gift to every customer, you can get a lot of social media mileage out of making a single customer feel truly special. Pick a customer who has been exceptionally loyal to your brand, then make a gesture that goes far beyond a standard “gift”.
For example, Honda found out that one of its customers was about to hit 1 million miles in one of its cars. To make the customer feel special about this major milestone, Honda gave him a free new car and made a video about it.
To read the full article, click here.