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Ecommerce Forum

Can't get customers to take gift!
Inexplicable behavior

 4:23 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Last year a very experienced webmaster for a large ecommerce company posted here that you can offer all sorts of freebies and a majority of customers won't enter a code to take them (he mentioned free shipping as one example!).

How true he was... and how odd this phenomenon is!

Lately we've been giving a free gift item with every purchase over a certain small amount. (we're thinking of selling the item eventually and want to test customer reaction) It's a product all our customers can use and is really worth a few dollars. (think free batteries with flashlight)

All the shopper has to do is enter a brief code in a very prominent text box at check out. At first, about 10% of customers entered the code with their order. I made the product/code info much bigger and we're up to about 25% taking the FREE item.

I considered making the freebie even more prominent but I thought it was crazy to work so hard to give something away. LOL!

Anyone else experience this? Surely there are broader lessons for ecommerce in this unexpected behavior.



 4:30 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Generally things that appear to be free often have strings attached or a nasty sting in the tail. People who believe otherwise are not sufficiently cynical to protect themselves from Nigerian "419" advance-fee-fraud, etc.

If you can reassure your visitors that these gifts don't bite then maybe your success rate would go up. Eg say that "we want you to try these out as we're thinking of selling them and we'd really appreciate your feedback". If you give them the opportunity to work a *little* for you with a 1-line response if they want, then they may see your offer more as a bargain than as a potential con.

IMHO, YMMV, batteries NOT included, lawyers may bite in some states, IANAL.




 4:32 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

My guess is that consumers have become so untrusting of anything "free" that they don't believe it when it actually is. Too many times they have been burned by "free" items that invlove over-priced shipping expenses, trials that are near impossible to quit after the free period ends, fine print that obligates them to all sorts of things, or being put on a mailing list that's then sold to thousands of other marketers. So they decide that it's not worth the hassle.

Maybe if you add some short copy explaining that you plan to sell the product in the future, but are giving away free samples of it for a limited time to judge people's reaction to it.


 4:56 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

If you really want to give the item away with a minimum purchase, why are you requiring your customers to do anything? Why don't you just throw it in the box when you ship whatever they have purchased?

Matt Probert

 6:39 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

It all started many years ago with a rather beautiful woman called Helen, and ended with the free gift of a large wooden horse....




 6:43 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Many consumers don't want their purchases to be tracked by these codes so they don't supply em. Tracking in their minds means more marketing coming my way.


 7:26 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Here's part of that old post I was referring (thanks to member otc_cmnn)

Nay - MORE put up more coupon boxes! ...

We deal with this by making 'Coupons' a section of our site, there is a large nav tab called 'Coupons', there is a large, prominent, differently colored box on both the shopping cart AND checkout page called 'Discount Coupons', we have an email box that says 'sign up for coupons...', we use coupon codes in almost every marketing campaign, we give all of our affiliates codes to us,..

The coupons we offer are things that we usually offer anyway like free shipping over $60, $10 off any order over $100 etc etc, things that will hopefully increase average order values. ...

...So now the question is... when you make coupons such a blatantly obvious and integral part of your site, what % of users actually USE a coupon? Naturally it will be different for everyone, but for our common consumer goods $60 average order site - it is less than 35% of checkouts.


 10:15 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

We have done the "free gift" a few times. We tried it again this past xmas. I am confident that it did not bring one extra sale. In fact, we forgot to include the gift for a few dozen orders and nobody called to complain.

Why? Who knows.

I like the theory that everybody is now a sceptic.


 10:26 pm on Feb 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

Is it really free?

Can a customer order JUST the "free" item?

Or is it only something you can get "at no extra cost" when you buy something else?

Probably nitpicking, but there is a difference, however small.


 8:13 am on Feb 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

One supplier I frequently purchase from sets a higher order total, but provides "free" product that is desirable. Maybe a few dollars is not a strong enough incentive to enter in a code.

Or if you want to offer it for free, why not add two line items (purchase items, and free items) during the Add to Cart process for specific products. Retail it might be a few bucks, but wholesale purchased in bulk from China is only ten cents? ;) Maybe instead of batteries for a flashlight, a second flashlight for free?


 8:14 pm on Feb 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

People are blind. Customers have tunnel vision. We offer % discounts for various occasions, and less than half of the folks who buy something enter it.

The discount code is on the top of every page-including the page where they are prompted to enter it.

We sell high ticket items where entering the code is often worth hundreds of dollars-people can't be bothered.


 8:59 pm on Feb 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

trials that are near impossible to quit after the free period ends - Ive been stung myself with this.

Variations on this theme have been debated previously, you just cant give stuff away if tehy dont want it, I took ina load of end of line gear once, priced it at $2 with wa a fraction of the former price never sold one.


 10:48 pm on Feb 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

"Trials that are almost impossible to quit"

- Dun & Bradstreet called a few years ago and offered our firm a listing in some online directory...Free. Was a fairly popular directory as I recall. We accepted. A year later we get a renewal invoice at something like $2,000! Took some effort to get out of that "free" directory. Many large firms would have just paid the $2,000.

- Local auto club offered me a year of upgraded service recently...Free. All I had to do was check a box. But I figured they'd try to sneak a paid renewal on my next bill. No thank you!

But there really are some good free offers. We use "gift with purchase" mailers to test advertising effectiveness.

People are blind. Customers have tunnel vision.
There is an element of that. When we made the offer twice as big, about twice as many people accepted the freebie. Not that it was ever hidden. It was prominent at first, then we made it HUMONGOUS!


 2:16 am on Mar 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

If it is inexpensive enough for you to give it away free, why be surprised that customers overlook it? Maybe it's just not worth the hassle and it's something they already have or easily pick up at teh store.


 12:57 pm on Mar 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

People come in through emails that are like "Enter coupon to save $$$" and order the product without the discount...


 8:10 pm on Mar 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

People just don't pay attention. Computer stores have huge signs that say "LAPTOPS HERE" yet the consumer will ask "where are the laptops?".

We offer a discount on every sale. Enter discount code "whatever" during checkout to save an additional 10% off your entire order. We have tried big bold letters, different placements, big bold red letters where they enter the code, etc... yet 60% don't enter the code. That would be fine but they realize it after the fact and request a credit for the discount... frustrating.

We now automatically enter the code and give them the discount... the less they have to think the better ;-)


 9:42 pm on Mar 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

So why call it a discount?

This is one aspect of US retail culture I found bizarre, with my host forever pouring over the local papers, clipping coupons, etc...




 9:49 pm on Mar 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

So why call it a discount?

Because people feel better about buying a $50 widget and getting a $10 discount than buying the same widget for $40. They paid full price for the 2nd widget, but got a 20% discount on the first.

No, they didn't really, but they feel they did. Think of it like an economic placebo.


 1:42 pm on Mar 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Exactly. In addition, many of my manufactures have instituted a MAP (minimum advertised price) pricing policy. I can discount at the checkout level but only if it's site wide discount. I can't say "Save 10% on all BrandX Widgets."


 8:28 pm on Mar 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Do you mean MAP (minimum acceptable price). Discounting at the checkout level is still discounting their product. Whether you do it for other products probably does not matter to an individual manufacturers point of view.


 9:26 pm on Mar 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

My theory would be that people have come to expect that they don't need to do anything to get whatever you offer.

Unfortunatly, all of the ecommerce world is judged by the likes of Amazon and other mega online retailers. You don't see anywhere on the Amazon site where you need to enter a code to get something free or get a discount, do you? It just happens.

Because people are blind, they will miss the code text and assume it is automatically added like it is everywhere else (read mega stores). Then when they get the order, and no free item or they later realized that they got charged full price, they won't blame themselves. They will blame you.

They may not call to complain (after all it was just a free item), but they will be a little jaded when it comes to shopping on your site.


 10:58 am on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

If you really want to give the item away with a minimum purchase, why are you requiring your customers to do anything? Why don't you just throw it in the box when you ship whatever they have purchased?

I have to agree with Moosetick. Nowadays people think that something's fishy when somebody offers free things and gifts online. And the above mentioned is the easiest way for you to make them accept whatever is that you are trying to send.

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