Contests and giveaways are promotion tactics through which retailers can both acquire new customers and engage with existing customers, all while building brand awareness and growing your business — when done successfully.
But the benefits of contests and giveaways extend beyond the buzz around the event itself. They’re great for capturing consumer data, such as email addresses and demographics information, and can serve as the groundwork for building relationships with your customer base.
Contests and giveaways are also appealing to retailers because of their flexibility. You can spend as much or as little as you want, both on the prize itself and your marketing efforts behind it. Results vary, but when done right, they can reap serious rewards.
This case study about Jewel Scent shares how a candle, bead, and soap retailer hit a revenue goal of $2 million in Q1, largely thanks to their promotions efforts. And these retailers grew their email subscription list by tens of thousands and experienced growing conversion rates.
Before you run a contest or giveaway, remember that there are a number of legalities and guidelines to consider, and these rules depend on the type of promotion you’re running and what platform you use as a host. The Target Marketing blog has a good starting point, and it’s also a good idea to check your state’s applicable laws.
Remember that contests and giveaways aren’t only viable options for consumers. They’re also great tactics to increase employee engagement and performance. So, without further ado, here are more than a dozen ideas to help retailers host their own successful contests to boost customer engagement and conversions.
Capitalize on Events, Holidays, and Seasons
Clothing retailer Land’s End ran a #SantaForADay contest during the holidays. The retailer tweeted out questions for their followers to answer for a chance to win a Land’s End gift card. They partnered with influencers, mostly parents, and asked questions that evoked emotion and touched on how important the holidays are to families.
But they didn’t stop there. Land’s End also hosted a sweepstakes, through which participants could play a game for a chance to win eGift cards.
T-Mobile also joined in on the holiday spirit with their 12 Days of Magenta contest. Each day for twelve days, T-Mobile gave away a product, such as headphones, smartphones, and wireless speakers. Prompts were less personal and more product-based, mostly asking customers how they would use the products if they were to win the contest.
What’s interesting in this case is that T-Mobile CEO John Legere, an influencer in his own right, took to his personal Twitter account to promote the contest.
The key takeaway from these examples is to join in on conversations that are already happening, and put a spin on it that makes sense for your brand. Land’s End made emotional connections with the purchasing decision-makers who are in their target market, and T-Mobile reminded consumers that they don’t just sell phones — they sell technology.
Social Media Contests
If your brand has a presence on social media, or if you’re looking to establish such a presence, a contest or giveaway is a great way to gain visibility. While there are a number of ways you can execute a social media contest, essentially, you want to award “entries” to users in exchange for engaging with your profiles. This engagement can be in the form of likes, shares, follows, posts, comments, mentions — virtually any type of social interaction with your brand.
Explore your options to see what might work for you. As a general rule of thumb, though, make sure your contest is visually engaging — whether it’s imagery provided by you or user-generated content created by contest entrants (or both).
While running a social contest may seem like an overwhelming task at first blush, there's a multitude of tools and plugins available to make setting up such giveaways a snap. Whether you're aiming to boost your followers, Page likes, or hammer home more engagement, here are some of the platforms worth that can help you get there:
Each social media channel also has specific guidelines retailers must follow in order to host a contest or giveaway on their site. Ensure you review a platform’s terms of service before establishing any sort of promotion. Read up on their guidelines below:
- Facebook Pages Terms
- Guidelines for Promotions on Twitter
- Pinterest Acceptable Use Policy
- Instagram Promotion Guidelines
Shortly after opening in Asbury Park, NJ, Dark City Brewing hosted a contest for fans to design the can for one of their beers. The winner received a monetary reward and the bragging rights to having a beer can design in their portfolio.
You’ll see this is a common tactic that retailers use. Apparel companies and new businesses can benefit from this particularly. It’s a win-win: The retailer gets a logo for a minimal cost, and the winner enjoys a bit of “fame” when they see their design on products.
Along the same vein of breweries looking to their customers to help them brand themselves, there’ve been many breweries who have contests in which they ask customers to name the product.
But this type of contest doesn’t have to be for beer only. If you’re launching a new product or variation of an existing product, host a contest to name it. Award the winner of your choosing or use a voting mechanism to determine the winning name.
Have you ever gone to trivia at a local bar? In essence, this is a contest. Offer gift cards to your store to the winners of competitions you can host in your physical space.
You don’t have to limit your options to trivia. Consider hosting a spelling bee, gingerbread house-making competition, costume contest, scavenger hunt, or karaoke competition.
Contest and Giveaway Partnerships
Partnering with other businesses is a strategic way to reach new audiences. Find a partner that makes sense for your brand and look for ways to work together.
One example is a recent online contest when Pig of the Month BBQ partnered up with Instructables to give away a year's supply of bacon. Entrants were encouraged to create a unique bacon recipe and upload the instructions to the Instructables site. And they received dozens of unique entries:
Partners don’t have to be other brands — you can look to influencers as well. They can host a giveaway on their blog, featuring your products and links back to your site, as well as promoting via their social media channels.
Challenge your customers or employees to give back with a fundraising contest. Perhaps you’ll match the amount raised by the entrant who raises the most funds, as well as reward them with a prize pack reflective of your brand and products.
Arguably one of the most well-known examples of a gamified contest is McDonald’s Monopoly challenge. Essentially, customers collect game pieces when they make qualified purchases. Some pieces have instant prizes (like free food and beverages from McDonald’s), while others require a collection of pieces to add up to more valuable prizes.
Examining this example can teach you a few things. First, the way to enter this contest is through making purchases. This boosts sales and incentivizes purchases. Second, McDonald’s has created a conversation. They’ve hosted this contest regularly for so long that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of it. And finally, McDonald’s has made it both fun and easy. If a contest is too difficult to enter or requires too many steps, you’ll experience disinterest and drop-off.
You don’t have to create a Monopoly game to create this kind of contest. Get creative!
You can also gamify contests for your employees. Here are five platforms to consider for making sales contests more engaging.
Contest and Giveaway for the Kids
If you have kid-friendly products, encourage them to engage with your brand through a fun activity, such as coloring.
I remember entering a VeggieTales contest when I was a kid. My brother, sister and I colored in a page with the VeggieTales characters and mailed them in. Winners received a free VeggieTales t-shirt. My sister was one of them.
Your contest doesn’t have to be coloring. Tailor your idea to something that makes sense for your brand. If you sell electronic products, encourage submissions for a virtual drawing or an edited video. Ask for submissions of short stories about your brand’s mascot. The possibilities are endless, so be creative.
Many employers offer rewards to employees who hit sales targets or generate the most revenue for a certain period of time.
Reward them with extra days off, a gift card, or something of their choosing. Some employers may offer a list of potential prizes from which the winning employee(s) can choose.
One of my former employers offered a weekly prize of $1,000. Any employee who had used their wellness tools that week was entered to win in a random drawing.
You can also host fitness or weight-loss competitions. Another former employer of mine offered a discounted opportunity to participate in WeightWatchers. The individual who lost the largest percentage of body weight had their participation fee waived and received a gift card.
Share Your Story
Offer prompts encouraging entrants to share their story. How would winning this contest change their life? What would they do with the prize? Narrow down the top entrants and then ask users to vote on who has the most convincing story.
Take a look at this contest hosted by The Knot for inspiration. Couples shared their unique wedding plans, and users vote on who wins $15,000 to put towards their wedding.
Ask for Nominees
Offer contest entrants to nominate individuals they think deserve to win the contest. Perhaps they’re making a difference in their community, or they have an amazing idea that they can’t get off the ground.
That’s where you come in. Instead of nominating yourself, contest entrants nominate someone they know who meets the criteria of the contest. Then members of the community can vote on the winner, or the retailer can choose one themselves.
National Geographic runs possibly the most coveted photography contest out there. They encourage readers to try their hand at taking stunning nature photos of their own for a chance to win a NatGeo-style expedition or other prizes. Inevitably, the magazine receives hundreds of breathtaking entries each year:
Luckily, photography for your contest doesn’t need to be of majestic landscapes and exotic wildlife. Challenge your customers or employees to a fun photography contest.
Photos can highlight your brand or product, or act as a representation of the entrant themselves. This presents a huge potential for retailers to capture user-generated content (UGC), so your contest can live on after the winner is announced.
You don’t need to limit your contest ideas to photo submissions. Post a photo of your choice and challenge people to submit captions; the best one wins.
For more about how to create a successful contest or promotion, check out common mistakes retailers should avoid.