A/B Testing Idea #286 - Hand out free gifts with products bought

Tactic_Hand out free gifts with products bought


The promise of a free gift is a strong incentive to get people to buy. Studies have shown that people are likely to feel compelled to give something back when they receive something for free (it's the power of the reciprocity bias) so offering a free gift will make visitors feel inclined to make a purchase from your site. A free gift also acts as a form of external motivation. When someone is wavering on making a decision, offering them a form of motivation such as a free gift could tip the scale in your favour. Also, once they have seen that they could receive a free gift with their purchase, the knowledge that they won't receive it should they decide not to make the purchase will trigger a powerful feeling of loss. This will be effective even though the customer might not necessarily have been looking for whatever it is you're offering for free. The gift you offer doesn't need to be expensive because it is the action of receiving something for free that will trigger these cognitive biases and motivate your customers, not really the thing itself.


  • Extrinsic Motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985-2000; Glucksberg, 1962)
  • Loss Aversion (Tversky & Kahneman, 1984)
  • Reciprocity Principle (Cialdini, 2006; Coffee, 2013; Wedekind & Milinski, 2000)

The Research

Extrinsic Motivation

A person’s motivation can be intrinsic (based on an internal factor or personal interest) or extrinsic (based on an external factor) and these two types of motivation will have a varying degree of influence depending on the context.

Loss Aversion

Loss Aversion explains our tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains.

Reciprocity Principle

The reciprocity principle is based on the “give and take” idea: if you provide me with something of value, I will be more likely to provide you with something of value in return.

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