Invoking Reciprocity in eCommerce

Here’s the meaning behind the old saying, “You have to give to get.”

When you give people a gift, they generally feel compelled to give you something in return. This is why whenever someone shows up with a gift for you for no particular reason you feel bad you didn’t get them something too.
It’s called the law of reciprocity and whether you’re considering how to sell an ebook online, electronics, cosmetics or even furniture, invoking reciprocity in eCommerce can have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Here’s how.

In Social Media

One of the fastest ways to gain followers in social media is to leave a positive comment, a “like,” or re-tweet a post and send a friend/follow request right afterwards. The recipient is usually flattered by the positive gesture and will agree to the request. This is classic reciprocity. The kindness of your action is repaid with their follow. Similarly, when someone takes the time to tell you they appreciate something you did for them, thank them and ask them to follow you on social media, again expanding your roster of followers.

In Product Promotions

Offering free shipping, a complimentary gift, or some sort of upgrade with a purchase will almost always move a shopper to convert. In fact, the offer of free shipping after a certain price threshold is powerful enough to make some shoppers spend more than it would have cost to ship the item to get “free shipping.”

Offer coupons for discounts, complimentary products and gift vouchers. Anything that could be considered of value to your ideal customer will usually work. The trick is to make sure it’s something that will be seen as a genuine value.

In Content Marketing

If there are prominent influencers in your area of business with whom you’d like to align your company, write about them in your blog. Contact them for an interview and send them a link when the article posts. This will give them what every blogger wants more than anything else—exposure. In exchange, they will usually promote the article on their platform, which gives your business added exposure.

Beyond that though, the simple act of blogging is often enough to make readers take a look at your eCommerce site—when your blog posts provide genuine value rather than coming across as extended advertisements. When you provide some truly useful information, people will want to learn more about you and follow you back to your place of business. If you’ve chosen the right niche for your blogs (ones in which potential customers have interest) they’ll find something they like on your eCommerce site.

Be Mindful Though

If it’s obvious you’re giving just to get, the power of the principle is mooted. Similarly, if you spread yourself too thinly, you may find you’re not in a position to reciprocate when it’s your turn. This could damage fragile new relationships. You could inadvertently create an enemy rather than a new friend. What’s more, it doesn’t always work out, so you have to be in a mindset of giving without an agenda. While your goal is of course to get, you have to go in not expecting to get it.

Invoking reciprocity in eCommerce is no different than what banks and car dealers have done for years. There’s a reason they provide “free” doughnuts, soft drinks, notepads and calendars. When you give, most people are programmed to want to give to you in return. Even though people say it’s better to give than to receive, when you give, you usually do receive.

About Mohammed Anzil

Professional Blogger, SEO, and Web Developer. Founder of and CoFounder of

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