How to Run a Retail Giveaway That Drives Word-of-Mouth and Grows Your Business

Who doesn’t love retail giveaways? More than just a gimmick, running contests can be a lot of fun and can have several benefits for retailers. When done right, these initiatives can increase online and foot traffic, drive word-of-mouth, and help you acquire new customers.

If you’re thinking of doing a giveaway in your business, keep reading. This step-by-step guide is packed with retail giveaway ideas, tips, and examples to help ensure that you’re able to craft a contest that’s both exciting and effective at the same time.

Step 1 – Set your goals

Get clear on what you want to achieve with your giveaway. Set just one or two main objectives for your contest. This will help you focus your efforts, avoid confusion, and make evaluating the results much easier.

Common giveaway goals include:

To collect customer information – Contest can enable to gather more information about your customers so you can build your email list. And depending on the details you collect, you could gain insights into demographics, purchase habits, and more, which can be very valuable.

Drive awareness for a particular product – Just launched a new product line? Putting your merchandise up for grabs could be just the thing that could put your products on people’s radars.

Acquire new customers – Use contests to put yourself in front of new audiences. Giveaways tend to attract a lot of people, many of which may not be your customers yet.

Engage existing customers – You could also leverage contests to show existing customers how much you value them. The right giveaway can re-engage current customers and increase loyalty.

Increase social engagement – Looking to increase the number of fans or likes to your social media accounts? Contests have proven to be effective in doing this.

Increase store traffic – Giveaways, when promoted right (e.g. hosting an event or displaying the prize in-store), can also drive foot traffic.

Step 2 – Decide on a prize

Prizes are an important component of any giveaway, so think this one through. You want to give away a prize that’s highly appealing and exciting but still relevant to your brand.

According to Kat Rosati, Brand Manager at Apparel Booster, you shouldn’t “offer items in a giveaway that are highly wanted but have nothing to do with your business.”

“For example, don’t do an iPad giveaway. You will likely get a lot of people sign up just for the giveaway but many won’t be the right people for your business. Instead, do a giveaway or run a contest related to your business — a product or service that your real clients would be interested in. You will get a much higher ROI that way.”

Let’s say you’re a cosmetics retailer looking to run a giveaway. A relevant prize could be a free makeover or makeup tutorial. 

Here’s another example: last year, Vend ran a St. Patrick’s Day contest, and one of the prizes we decided to give away was a POS bundle complete with a barcode scanner, receipt printer, and cash drawer.

By offering up something relevant to your business, you can ensure you’re attracting the right types of contest entrants.

Step 3 – Figure out your giveaway’s mechanics

The next step is to figure out how you’re going to implement your giveaway. Here are some of the details you should think about.

1. Type of contest

Start with the type of giveaway:

a. Sweepstakes – At their most basic level, sweepstakes are pretty straightforward. All entrants need to do is submit their information via a raffle ticket or online form, and they’ll be entered into the contest. Basic sweepstakes provide a low barrier to entry and allow you to collect customer information easily.

That said, you could take your sweepstakes to the next level, by asking customers for more than just their information. For instance, they could join your loyalty program to enter the sweepstakes, or they could leave a review for an item they purchased. (The latter is a good way to engage existing customers.)

Check out this example from Toys “R” Us. To encourage customers to review their products, the retailer runs a contest that gives people a chance to score a $250 gift card.


b. Social media contests – Often used to increase social media fans and engagement, this type of contest typically involves getting people to like or follow your social accounts. Sometimes, retailers require participants to take extra actions, such a leaving a comment or re-posting a piece of content.

Here’s an excellent example from Anna Grunduls Design. Anna ran a giveaway on Facebook in which she instructed entrants to like the contest photo, choose a product from her online shop, leave a comment, and follow her page on Facebook.

The giveaway had more than 400 entries and promoted a whole lot of engagement.


c. UGC contest – Giveaways that incorporate user-generated content (UGC) are also quite popular. These contests involve people submitting a piece of content (e.g. photo, essay, etc.) as a their entry. UGC giveaways are ideal for community engagement goals and they give you access to content that you can showcase on your site, social accounts, and stores.

Have a look at what GoPro did a few years ago. They ran the GoPro Creator’s Challenge and gave people a chance to win $5,000. To enter, participants had to create a GoPro video showing off their passion.


d. Joint giveaways – If possible, team up with other businesses when you run your giveaway.  You and other companies could contribute your own products to create a really compelling prize and you could all share the marketing costs and efforts.

Here’s a good joint giveaway in action: Whole Kids, an organic healthy kids snacks brand, teamed up with Little Interiors, an interior design business for kids’ spaces, to launch the mutually beneficial giveaway below:


To enter, participants would  have to like both companies’ Instagram accounts, tag their friends, and leave a comment talking about the sweetest thing their kids have said.

e. In-store games / events – Online giveaways may be all the rage, but let’s not forget about good old fashioned offline contests. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, consider doing a “real world” giveaway.

Marbles: The Brain Store, a retailer that sells educational games, ran monthly game nights in its stores and have gotten great results in the form of stronger customer engagement, brand awareness, and higher sales. Their game nights also helped them in research and development.

“Monthly game nights have been a part of our stores since we started, but for the past five years we’ve hosted charity crossword puzzle tournaments at five of our locations,” co-founder Scott Brown told

“These contests tend to be really fun, with about 20 participants each time—people drive from all over. The investment is low, and our ROI (return on investment) is large. Sales spike on event days.”


2. Barrier to entry

So, you’ve thought about your prize, and you now have an idea of what type of giveaway to implement. The next step is to determine how people can participate in the contest.

Your giveaway’s barrier to entry will depend on the goals you set. If you’re just looking to collect information, then you can have a low barrier to entry and simply ask people for their name and email address.

But if your goal is to increase engagement on social media, then you’ll want to ask people to take a specific action such as liking your page, leaving a comment, or submitting a photo.

The type of entries would also depend on your prize. If your prize is high-value and attractive, then you could set up a high barrier to entry, such as what GoPro did.

3. Deciding the winner(s)

Determine how you’ll pick the winner. Will you randomly choose a winner or will you judge entries based on quality (e.g. photo contest)? Whatever you decide, communicate it clearly to avoid confusion.

4. Disclaimers and legal information

Also be sure to disclose any legal information and technicalities. For instance, is a purchase necessary to join the contest? Is there an age limit? Can anyone in the world join? These are just some of the details you should consider.

To be safe, do your research on giveaway laws in your country or state to ensure that you’ve got all your legal ducks in a row.

Step 4 – Spread the word

At this point, you’ve ironed out all the mechanics and launched your giveaway. Great! Now comes promoting and spreading the word.

As exciting as they are, giveaways won’t go viral on their own. Give yourself ample time and resources to promote your contest. Here are a few ideas:

  • Notify your newsletter subscribers
  • Promote the giveaway on social media
  • Use in-store signage
  • Encourage participants to spread the word for additional entries
  • Team up with bloggers and other businesses

For best results, use a combination of the above tactics. Also, remember that it may not be enough to do these steps once. For instance, posting one tweet about your giveaway won’t cut it, so compose a series of posts and schedule them in advance. If you’re sending out emails, you may want to re-send the giveaway email (with a different subject line) to subscribers who didn’t open the previous message.

Step 5 – Announce the winner

Once the entries are in and the winner is chosen, the next step is to announce and notify the winner. You’ll want to put a lot of effort into this. Don’t just send them an email and be done with it.

Participants have invested their time, and in some cases, a lot of effort to participate in your giveaway, so make them feel special. They’ll feel great and spread the word, plus, you’ll keep people excited and pumped for future giveaways.

One way to celebrate the winner is to feature them on your website, social media page, even your brick-and-mortar store, if possible.

For example, when GoPro announced the winners of their Creator’s Challenge, they featured the entries on their website and Facebook page:

Step 6 – Evaluate the results

Once the giveaway is over, take time to look back and evaluate your campaign. What went right? What didn’t go as planned? Also think about the types of participants and entries that you received. Were you satisfied with quantity and quality of entries?

Take note, so you can improve in the future.

Bonus: Put the information you’ve gathered to good use

You’ve worked hard to set up your giveaway and collect customer details; make the most out of your efforts by putting the information you gathered to good use. See to it that participants are added to your mailing list so you can notify them of special announcements, products, and future giveaways.

Recommended Reading

Need insights into putting your email subscriber list to good use? Download Vend’s Retail Email Marketing Guide, a free resource on gaining subscribers, connecting with customers and using email to drive sales.

If possible, analyze the information you received. If you’ve gathered details into people’s demographic information (e.g. birthday, location) then that information could be useful when you’re crafting marketing campaigns or deciding where to put your next pop up store.

Your turn

We hope you learned a thing or two about retail giveaways in this post. Now we’d love to hear from you. Do you run contests in your stores? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.


About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.

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