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Using the power of reciprocity to push sales online

So what does that fancy word mean? Reciprocity is a form of social psychology which refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action – thus rewarding kindness.

So it is powerful?

In 1974 sociologist Phiip Kunz received Christmas cards. Many Christmas cards actually, 200 in all. They came in different shapes and sizes and all were affectionate towards him and his family.

This is a normal, sweet tale except for one thing: Kunz didn’t know any of them.

As a sociologist at Bringham Young University he had decided to do an experiment to find out what would happen if he handwrote 600 personal Christmas cards to complete strangers.

But why would so many people reply to someone they didn’t know? This is the rule of reciprocity at work. Since he had sent a thoughtful note many recipients felt obligated to return the favor.

For eCommerce, this rule of reciprocity can be seen in promotions such as free shipping, upgrades or discounts for loyal customers when they make their next purchase.


This is a common strategy of beauty and cosmetic companies and it works particularly well as an incentive to spend over a certain amount.

WooCommerce Free Gift Plugin

A super little plugin leverages reciprocity and adds free gift functionality to WooCommerce for only $16. It has loads of features including:

  • An option to specify any product as the fixed gift or let the customers select a gift from a specified category.
  • Option to hide the gift products from customers in the shop.
  • The functionality can be enabled for all customers or only for registered customers.
  • Giving a gift to the same customer more than once may be disabled.
  • Basic support for product variations.
  • Giving customers a gift if they apply a coupon can be disabled if desired.
  • The message for notifying customers whether they are eligible for a free gift can be displayed on the cart page or by using a special shortcode on any page or post.
  • The extension is ready to be translated by the standard WordPress localization process.

So check out the WooCommerce Free Gift Plugin and see how the power of reciprocity can help push sales in your store.

Simon Tomkins Designer, developer and pixel pusher until things are just right. Interested in modern, functional design with a focus on speed, clean typography and conversions. Enjoys whitespace and strong coffee.

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