Monday, March 31, 2008

When Free Isn't Enough

Last month I wrote a post about Chris Anderson’s Free: Why $.0.00 is the Future of Business. From there I updated the post with Trendwatching’s Free Love trend briefing. It was while reading the Free Love briefing that I discovered A website where visitors are presented with a revolving choice of free jewelry. In the spirit of research I choose a pair of earrings and ordered them. The earrings were free + $5.99 in shipping costs, a bargain by any definition. The transaction was easy, order follow-up was appropriate and the earrings arrived 1-2 weeks later. Unfortunately 1-2 weeks later was just long enough for me to forget the name of the company I ordered them from.

The earrings arrived in a non-descript padded envelope. Within the envelope the earrings were in multiple small plastic bags crammed into a blue mesh jewelry bag. That was it - no packing slip, no collateral encouraging me to buy jewelry and no mention of what company the jewelry came from. The worst part is the packaging of the earrings and the lack of attention to detail has taken what started out as a great experience where I had a positive impression of the company and turned it into a negative experience. There was nothing special that would encourage me to pay for jewelry from the company. Instead I feel relieved that the earrings were free and that I didn’t pay the SRP of $59.99.

Free is great, it gets people interested, but it’s equally important to think through how to make free into a profitable equation. For that could be as simple as upgrading its packaging and including some well though out collateral. Perhaps a mini catalog of jewelry available for purchase. At the very least, when sending a customer a freebie, remind them whom the freebie is from.

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