The UK high street has been engulfed in its fair share of doom-and-gloom headlines in recent years. Closures of long-standing brands and Mike Ashley snapping up whatever he can would certainly paint a grim picture for anyone looking to get some insight into the health of the sector. Yet, the high street remains and continues to be the preference for the majority of British shoppers.

In fact, more money is spent in brick-and-mortar stores than online in the UK. However, more could be done to reduce the divide between the online and in-store experience. In-store comes with many benefits, such as the hands-on experience with products and assistance when needed, but in the end, prices will remain a major driver in purchasing.


To help attract more customers and make the in-store experience all the more enticing, high street stores should look to tap into the power of freebies, discounts, and valuable loyalty programs to all who come to the shop – but especially new customers. It’s a tool utilised extensively by online competitors, even to the extent that some sectors all but have to provide an offer. Beyond competing, though, there are distinct benefits to embracing these marketing methods.

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The art of welcoming with a freebie

If there’s one competitive market that anyone can look to for the proven success and subsequent prevalence of freebies, it’s online casinos. In the UK, the most popular of these tend to be free spins on sign up. This is because slots are the most popular games. With these offers, players get a £40 bonus to play on Big Bass Bonanza or even 100 free spins without needing to place a deposit.

Most of these platforms follow up on the immediate freebies for newcomers with stacked loyalty programs where more play results in more bonuses to deliver real value. Of course, these are all-digital products, so giving away freebies doesn’t have to factor in the cost or delivery of physical items. Yet, these kinds of online stores also delve into freebies. Buster Box, for example, offers both a free first box and a wheel spin to potentially land up to a 15 per cent discount on a first order. Toucan Box also offers a free apron to new subscribers.

Others who don’t want to dive straight into the deep end with freebies will go for discounts to new customers. Gousto enters with 60 per cent off of their first box, which tees up a loyalty discount bonus of 20 per cent off of all boxes for the first two months of subscribing. It’s a great one-two of discounts for newcomers to get them involved and, potentially, subscribing to the meal boxes. The discount after the welcome offer is an important selling point as a successful promotion like this will keep customers coming back for more.

Some high street brands have combined their online and in-store efforts for their loyalty programs, and sometimes, a loyalty program can be good enough that a welcome bonus isn’t necessary. This is the case for Waterstones. Their Plus Card offers a stamp per £10 spent in-store or online. Ten stamps stack up a £10 Plus discount on any future purchase with the bookstore. Essentially, you get 10 per cent back every time you hit £100 in spending. Still, the store does advertise this loyalty program as heavily as others would a welcome offer.

The power behind the freebie


You don’t have to look far to find an abundance of statistics backing up the power of freebies in retail. A Cornell University study once found that over 90 per cent of customers who tried free wine samples were both likely to spend $10 more on another bottle of wine and to re-purchase that wine again down the line. Further, Marsh Supermarkets found that samples persuaded 68 per cent of samplers to make a purchase, while over 80 per cent said that events like free samplings were preferred to newspaper or TV bonuses and improved the experience.

Throw in the stats that say that around one-in-seven Millennials look for a deal before buying and that one-in-eight will try new brands if those new brands offer a discount, and you have statistical backing for putting up freebies and discounts. Powering this tried-and-trusted marketing method is the reciprocity principle. A key driver for those in society, the reciprocity principle simply describes that seemingly innate desire to repay a kindness in turn. For this article, that means that people feel inclined to return the favour of a freebie by making a purchase should that freebie offer them value – such as by being deemed of good quality to them.

Freebies and discounts for new customers are a great way to get a foot in the door, especially as those who shop online have all but become accustomed to getting these in some form before making a purchase. However, the key to the success of such a marketing program is to have it lead into a strong loyalty program.