Retail Giveaways: How to Create an Engaging Online Contest That Converts

Retail Giveaways: How to Create an Engaging Online Contest That Converts

How to Run an Online Contest | Shopify Retail blogIf you’re active on any social media channels, you’ve likely seen members of those communities participating in an online contest. Whether they’re sending tweets about a brand, sharing a Facebook post about a product, or commenting on a beautiful Instagram post, giveaways seem to be everywhere online.

Everyone likes free stuff. But giveaways aren’t just great for the winner — they’re an opportunity for you to grow your retail business. With a little bit of product as a prize and some marketing effort, an online giveaway can help your business:

  • grow your email newsletter subscription list;
  • increase awareness of a new brand or product;
  • drive customers to your website or into your store;
  • gain valuable data from existing and future customers;
  • increase social media followers; and
  • get rid of excess inventory as prizes.

Even though there are clearly plenty of possible benefits from running an online giveaway, you’ll need to narrow it down for each campaign that you run — but more on that later. Now, let’s dive into the steps you’ll need to take to run a flawless online contest.

Define the Goal and Giveaway

What’s the goal for your giveaway? While there are many reasons you might launch a giveaway, your objective might look something like one of the options in the list above. Whether it’s increasing website traffic, growing your social presence, or increasing sales, it’s important to clearly define the goal from the beginning of the campaign.

It’s important to also make sure that the success of your campaign is trackable and that you’re set up to analyze this data throughout and at the end of the giveaway. Nail down what metrics are most important before you launch your online contest, as these will be based on your goals for the overarching campaign. Then ensure the infrastructure is in place to measure these analytics, whether it be through a contest platform like Woobox or Gleam, or looking at engagement like rewteets on Twitter, shares on Facebook, or similar metrics.

Next, you’ll need to identify the prize or prizes you’ll be giving away. This is obviously an integral component of any online contest, as better prizes can help further boost engagement and shares. But stay away from offering some generic prize (no more iPad giveaways, for goodness’ sake!). Instead, make the prize relevant to your brand or products.

Ideally, you could give away your own products as prizes to ensure that you’re attracting entrants who are interested in your brand. Giving away a TV might just attract people that like big TVs and aren’t really interested in your business or its offerings. Giving away some of your own product is also a way to clear some liquidate extra inventory cluttering up your shelves.

Types of Giveaways

There are innumerable types of contests for eager retailers to try. While we’ve included a roundup of some of the most common types below, you may still need a bit of inspiration to come up with the perfect contest content. If you’re planning your next round of giveaways for the year, consider planning your online contest around one of the following factors:

  • Holidays/Seasons: Annual holidays roll around at the same time every year, so why not use one of them as a touchstone for your next contest? For example, consider a grilling giveaway for summer, or a stationery giveaway for back-to-school season.
    • Industry Events: Is there a major conference everyone in your niche attends annually? Host a giveaway leading up to the event and/or during the conference to build buzz and associate your brand with this major event.
    • Collaborations: Have another brand in your industry that you’d love to work with? Consider co-hosting an online contest. Both brands can offer complementary prizes as part of the giveaway, and co-market the campaign within each retailer’s respective networks.

        While the aforementioned ideas are a solid starting point for contest content, you’ll still need to nail down the type of giveaway that’s optimal for your goals. Here are a few of the most common types you’ll encounter:

        Social Media Sweepstakes

        Entrants usually like a business page or an individual post, and share the contest details and link with a certain amount of people to enter. Then the winner is drawn randomly.

        Ringly online contest example | Shopify Retail blog

        Image Credit: Ringly

        Purchase Required Draw

        Customers who purchase certain products are entered into a raffle to win a grand prize or multiple smaller prizes.

        PetSmart online contest example | Shopify Retail blog

        Image Credit: PetSmart

        User-Generated Content Contest

        Customers submit their own content, usually a photo or video of them interacting with your product to win a prize, then the best submission (as defined by you) is awarded.

        Nikon photo online contest | Shopify Retail blog

        Image Credit: Nikon Photo Contest

        For more inspiration for your next online contest or giveaway, check out our list of 14 Essential Giveaway and Contest Ideas for Retailers to Boost Traffic and Engagement.

        Set Up the Campaign

        Once you’ve decided on a goal and prize for the campaign, it’s time to get it setup. You can run the campaign on your own, which will require a lot of effort — from coding, to marketing, analytics, categorizing data, and picking a winner. Alternatively, there are plenty of platforms that help make it simple to run the campaign from start to finish, including:

        • ViralSweep: “ViralSweep is the all-in-one solution to grow your email list, increase social engagement, and collect user generated content.”
        • Gleam helps businesses run competitions on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and on your retail site. 
        • Woobox offers different types of campaigns: sweepstakes, coupons, instant winners, and pick a winner based on Facebook likes and comments.

        Remember when you’re organizing your online giveaway that it’s best to keep things simple. Make it easy for customers to enter — one of the biggest reasons that people don’t enter a contest is because of an overly complicated barrier to entry. Asking for too much personal information or requiring entrants to complete a lengthy form causes many people to abandon the entry process. Keep your goal in mind and ask people for the minimum information needed to meet your goal.

        While setting up the campaign, you’ll also need to establish the remaining parameters around your contest, including:

        • Timeframe: When your contest will launch and how long it will run.
        • Guidelines/Rules: Clearly write out the rules around entering your contest, how entrants can win, and when winners will be announced. The social platforms you use to to promote your contest will dictate some of these rules. Read up on the individual guidelines for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
        • Entrant Information: Based on your contest’s goals, are you most interested in collecting user emails? Or perhaps boost Facebook engagement? Outline what information you want from contest entrants, and ensure that information aligns with your campaign and overall business objectives.
        • Optimized Content: You’ve established your contest concept, so now it’s time to make sure users can easily find your contest through search. So, optimize your content for SEO. Use your own site as a host for the contest rather than a micro-site, include relevant keywords in the contest copy, and appropriate links to build authority and make it search friendly.

        Running Your Online Contest

        Now that you’re up and running, it’s time to market your giveaway. Let your existing customers know first through your email newsletter, social media accounts, and in-store signage. If your entrants submit their entries through social media (i.e. a photo contest, re-posting the contest info, or by liking a specific page or post), you can also require entrants to tag a certain number of people to qualify. If everyone needs to share the link with five others to qualify, that’s a quick and easy way to ensure you’re reaching a large number of people organically.

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        If you have a marketing budget to put behind your campaign, consider hiring key influencers to share the contest information and promote your business, and/or getting some paid social posts targeting your identified audience.

        Some of the primary places you can promote your giveaway are:

        • Your enewsletter subscriber list
        • Your customer subscribe email list
        • Branded social media channels
        • Your ecommerce website
        • Your blog
        • Other blogs (perform blogger outreach to find relevant influencers in your space to promote your contest)
        • Contest directories (Wishpond offers a great list of content directories)

        Throughout the campaign, be sure to keep the momentum going — it’s easy to start off strong and dwindle as time goes on. In the article “5 Tips: Running A Successful Online Giveaway,” Forbes stresses the importance of not letting a campaign feel stale: “There's usually a big splash when a giveaway or contest launches, but fizzles the longer it goes. Make sure you set a reasonable timeline for your giveaway (I try to keep giveaways to one month or shorter). Second, keep reminding people throughout the giveaway time period.”

        Announce the Winner

        Once you’ve chosen a winner based on your outlined rules and regulations, it’s important to publicly announce the winner. By advertising the winner through social media, email, and signage you build excitement for your next online contest, legitimize it , and provide a face to the campaign.

        Measure, Reflect, Repeat

        As we mentioned earlier, it’s integral to track the success of your contest while it’s live. And once you’ve ended the giveaway and have sent prizes out to your winner, it’s time reflect on the efficacy of your contest while the experience is still fresh. What worked, and what didn’t? Did you see a lift in engagement but not an increase in conversions? Were the rules clear enough for entrants, or did you run into any obstacles?

        Examine the important metrics that are directly correlated to your business objectives. If your contest was successful, reflect on how you can replicate that success in future contests.

        What’s Your Experience With Online Contests?

        Online giveaways are a great way to reward loyal customers, create more engagement from existing customers, increase brand awareness online, and gain new customers. There’s an infinite combination of prizes and ways to run an online contest — so tell us about your retail giveaways, including what’s worked, what you’d do differently, and what you learned along the way in the comments section below.

        Photo of Lauren Ufford

        About the Author

        Lauren Ufford is a writer and editor with expertise in retail, ecommerce, and tech. Originally from the West Coast, Lauren spends her free time exploring Toronto with her two comically large dogs.

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