Christmas time can be hectic time of the year. It can get to the point where you want to call your good friends and say, “Hey listen! Let’s not exchange presents this year!”
We know that if they give us something we will have to return their present with one of greater value, or we’re going to feel bad.
We are automatically obligated when somebody gives us something. There’s a sense of obligation to return the favor. Sometimes we do this for love or for fun. But many times we give gifts or do favors out of a sense of obligation. If I gave you a gift or did you a favor, would you feel you owed me something in return?
Most likely you
would want to give me a gift or do me a favor in return, possibly to be nice, but mainly to get rid of the feeling of owing me something.
This is an unconscious filling, but quite strong.
Gift giving and favor swapping is what makes us human. It’s necessary for our very survival. If one person gives someone some food, shelter, money, a gift or even a favor, it will cause that person to fell indebted to the other person.
The only reason we are here now is because our ancestors shared their food and their skills an honored a network of obligations.
When we give someone a gift we trigger a feeling in them of being indebted to us. The only way to get rid of this feeling is to respond and return the gift or favor. Sometimes they will ignore these feelings, but these feelings will linger. It might even take a long time for them to act on the feeling. But the neatest thing about this is that when the gift or favor is returned it is normally of a higher value.
If someone returns a gift of lesser value it will leave them with a feeling of an unpaid debt. So, in most cases they are going to give something of higher value than the original gift.
There was some research done in 1976. They sent Christmas cards to total strangers and not only did they get a large number sending cards back to them, but these people (who were total strangers) continued to send Christmas cards many years after the experiment was over. Think about it like this; say you are in a room with another person, as a team or working separately on different task. After a while a guy comes into the room to tell you that you have a 10 min. break. The other person in the room ask, if he can leave during the break and the guy in charge says, yes.
A few minutes later this person returns with two cans of Coke. He opens one and hands the other one to you and says, I asked the guy if it was okay to bring soda in and he said yes, so I bought one for you too.
You open the soda and drink it.
The person in charge comes in the room and starts the task again. A little while later the person in charge says he needs to take care of some stuff and everyone is free to go. When he leaves, the other person turns to you and ask, if you are interested in buying some raffle tickets. The person who sells the most tickets gets a prize; you say okay and buy three raffle tickets for five dollars.
You see, they did this experiment.
If someone gave you a can of soda would you then reciprocate in buying raffle tickets if they asked you to? Half of the time Joe offers the soda. The other half he doesn’t. The results?
When Joe brings you a soda you’re twice as likely to purchase a raffle ticket as when Joe doesn’t bring you a soda. You feel that you have to buy the raffle ticket because he gave you a gift even though the raffle ticket cost a lot more than the soda.
The power of reciprocating has been well known to people who manage direct marketing campaigns.
For example, mailing unsolicited donations for a veterans group generated an average response rate of 18%. When the mailing campaign included personalized address labels, the donation almost doubled to 35%. Marketers use this method to persuade you to perform some type of action, such as making a purchase, volunteering, or funding a project.
It is difficult to say no to a gift.
Any time you give something away for free on your website it creates an opportunity to obligate the person that is receiving the gift.
Let’s say there’s an e-commerce site offering free shipping on orders over $75.
But does this offer really obligate us?
Consider the fact that we not only have to buy something; we have to spend a certain amount of money. Perhaps more than we wanted to spend. By agreeing to spend more than we’d originally planned, we presented the first gift, our willingness to spend more money. The company then reciprocate by giving us free shipping.
This feels like an exchange, at best. So the offer of free shipping does not create a feeling of being indebted.
To in debt someone they have to feel like they got a gift with no strings attached. At Zappos.com’s online shoe store they offer free shipping with no strings attached. Even better they offer free shipping if you decide to return that item.
Now that’s cool!
This makes the offer feel like a gift, to you when you shop on their online shoe store.
Free gifts are very powerful. If the site gives you a free no strings attached gift, it will trigger you to reciprocate.
There is a coffee store inside the mall where I live and every time I go there they give my son a little bag of cookies. And in return I sit down and drink a cup of coffee. After
all, the cookies are free with a cup of coffee. So by giving my son the free cookies they obligate me to buy the coffee.
By giving a gift with no strings attached, you could cause a customer or friend to become a longtime customer or friend.
One way for a website to give a gift would be giving the gift of information.
For example, this website sells website designs, and we dedicated pretty much the whole website to giving guidance and information on making money online rather it’s with your website design, search engine optimization or even social media marketing.
No, this doesn’t guarantee someone’s going to purchase from me, but it does increase my chances.
And it could be the difference between them spending money with me or with my competition. Even if they don’t purchase right away, they are likely to eventually come back and buy. It’s also a great way to get people to feel out a form.
There was a test done in 2007 were they used a website that provide useful information about different formats of media files, definitions of media files, when to use each format and so on.
In the reward condition, visitors can access the information by first completing a form that asked for their names, addresses, and other demographic information.
They tested this site against a separate site were visitors could immediately access the information and then they were asked to fill out a form.
Visitors were twice as likely to fill out the form after getting the free information then filling out the form to access the information.
You know there are a lot of things that we can do that would be like giving a gift to our website visitors.
Showing your visitors other products they might be interested in buying, could be seen as a gift.
Giving away free content could be seen as a gift.
Giving away an e-book, could be seen as a gift.
The reason we want to do this is that giving a gift triggers or increases the likelihood that others will reciprocate by giving us something in return.