Customer loyalty is built through reciprocity, and will grow your brand's reach and revenue.


We’ve all heard that it’s better to give than to receive and many of us believe and practice giving because it makes us happy – it connects us and makes us more human.  So it’s no wonder scientific studies have supported that premise along with some of the most inspirational people on the planet.

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

                                                                                                                                                                                     Mahatma Gandhi

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When was the last time you gave someone something they wanted or needed that they weren’t expecting?  Whatever you did, I bet it felt pretty good, didn’t it? 

A while back, a friend of mine who was visiting Vancouver saw a local businessperson buy a meal for a homeless man.  The next day as my friend was heading to Starbucks to grab a coffee he noticed a street person sitting on the sidewalk outside.  Remembering what he witnessed the day before, my friend brought the stranger into the coffee shop and bought him some breakfast.  The barista was so impressed she comped my friend his coffee.

So “giving feels great” is a given, but don’t underestimate the rewards in receiving.  As they say, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”  So if you like to give, you need to also humbly receive so your cup of kindness can be replenished.

The power of reciprocity

When people receive a free gift they respond in a number of different, often unconscious, ways.  Most feel a real sense of indebtedness towards the giver – a reaction coined as the reciprocity principle.  They experience a genuine need to return the favor despite the fact that they never asked for the gift in the first place.  And so when the beneficiary receives a subsequent request from the benefactor, they are more likely to reciprocate.

We’ve all seen it many times and it never seems to get old…

  • Free samples at supermarkets are rampant throughout many stores for good reason - they help boost sales, often from people who had no intention of buying the product when they walked in the store. Costco is a master at this.
  • Being offered a glass of champagne at a high-end boutique helps retain the interest of shoppers, while loosening their resolve and purse strings.

These acts of generosity also get the gift-of-gab going and growing. The Journal of Marketing Research discovered that:

  • Receiving something for free increases Word of Mouth (WOM) by 20%
  • Receipt of freebies related to a product results in a 15% increase in WOM
  • Coupons and rebates have virtually no effect at all

When done strategically, this form of psychology-based marketing can be a powerful instrument in the acquisition of new customers and development of deeper, longer-lasting relationships with existing ones.  Just make sure that you…

  • Offer a gift unconditionally and make sure they know exactly where it came from
  • Ask for nothing at the time of giving
  • Follow up later to reconnect with the receiver, maintaining the feeling of indebtedness by continuing to give

Sound simple?  It is, so don’t overthink it.   Presenting a “try before you buy” (i.e. free trial) offer won’t instill a feeling of obligation on the part of the user.  But giving without strings can maximize your opportunity to receive your just rewards at a later date.

Thousands of hotels are already practicing the art of reciprocity by offering people near or in their establishment (not just paying guests) access to the world’s most valued and trusted media – more than 7,500 full-content digital newspapers and magazines from over 100 countries.

When a person is presented with a generous gift, without ever having to give back any personal information, it surprises and delights them. 

The hotel gets recognized for its generosity, the publisher grows readership, and the WOM that results from one small random act of kindness creates a gift that keeps on giving…and receiving.

Guests at hotel

The ROI of gifted issues

Hotels and airlines have been giving away limited selections of printed media for decades, but those “gifts” were often for select guests and passengers (those in premium cabins or members of loyalty programs).  With PressReader’s digital issue gifting, travel brands can reach out and touch new prospects with a valued item that:

  • Enhances the brand image of the business
  • Strengthens the recipients’ affinity with premium media brands
  • Offers a frictionless reading experience that appeals to both traditional replica readers and digital natives
  • Generates good will, turning strangers into brand champions
  • Capitalizes on the power of reciprocity

Sow, sow, sow…

When I look around the world today, I’m disheartened by the amount of lip service many organizations pay to customer experience.  Pretty much every company has faced at least one PR disaster when their client interactions don’t live up to their words.

I’m not trying to pick on United Airlines, but it’s had its share of debacles over the past year and is paying dearly for them. Sure, it’s easy for us to point fingers, but are we really living up to customers’ expectations ourselves? 

According to Accenture Interactive, today’s travelers expect more from travel brands than they’re getting.  Even the simplest things, like personalized communications, are falling well short.  75% of people want hotels and airlines to use their previous travel experiences to help them make better future choices, but only 50% of travel brands are delivering the deep, authentic, and personal connections people want.

We at PressReader work with many of the 50% who get it right – hotels, airlines, publishers, and other businesses that seek first to delight consumers with gifts that, as American novelist, essayist, and poet, Vanna Bonta once said, “have ribbons, not strings”.

If I have one piece of advice to share with travel brands looking to leverage the power of reciprocity to improve their bottom lines, it would be to make every year the year of the person, and I’m not talking about the one in the mirror.  Simple acts of kindness, tokens of affection, and a culture of giving will make reaping what you sow a lot more rewarding for the traveler, your employees, and your shareholders.

If you’re interested in learning more about PressReader’s Gifting program and how it can grow your brand awareness, improve your guests’ experience, reduce your operating costs, and help create a more sustainable property, let’s talk!

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