Your unforgettable brand experience starts with acquisition

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Megan Goodfield

‘First impressions matter.’ 

As a marketing professional, you know more than most just how true that age-old adage really is. Today’s consumers are spoilt for choice – overwhelmed by choice, in fact – and they’re constantly having to make flash judgements about brands based on limited and immediately available information. 

As the first touchpoint encountered, acquisition dictates your customer’s first impressions of your brand. It’s the point at which you set the tone for your future relationship (hopefully!) with them. And if you seize this fleeting moment to make your prospect feel cared-for and catered-to, you open up the possibility of creating a loyal, lasting fan of your business – and possibly even an advocate for it.

But, to call upon yet another well-worn adage, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.’ So to create a lasting positive connection with your audience, you need to give your customer acquisition strategies some thoughtful consideration. Because a little extra care now will pay dividends down the line.  

What do your customers want from incentives? 

To better understand the true impact of gift-driven customer acquisition strategies, M&S Corporate Gifts recently surveyed 1,000 British consumers. (You can read our full report on the results here.) Conducted by independent research agency Savanta, this survey provided some eye-opening insights into the mindset of today’s consumer. 

Unsurprisingly, the results underlined just how all-important that first touchpoint with a brand is. The overwhelming majority of respondents – 95.3% – said that a positive first experience with a brand would make them more likely to become a returning customer. Wow and woo them from the get-go, and they’ll eventually be back for more. 

The potential for creating a positive customer first impression through a gift-card incentive is clear. The vast majority of survey respondents – 91.3% – said they’d be more likely to remember receiving a gift card as a purchase incentive than an equivalent discount off a future purchase.

The relative immediacy of a gift card – in terms of spend-it-now gratification – is obviously a factor here. The consumer is getting ‘something for nothing’ now, rather than at some ill-defined point in the future. Even if a hefty future discount is arguably the more ‘logical’ choice – in cases where a customer is likely to revisit your brand for subsequent purchases – a discount lacks the motivational ‘nudge’ of a gift card sourced from another brand.      

Why? Because receiving a gift card as an incentive to purchase feels personal – pleasingly so. It lets the customer know that they’re valued; that their decision to choose your brand, over all those countless others, is genuinely appreciated. It also feels less bluntly transactional than the offer of a discount, and less like a manipulative effort to extract yet more purchases before the initial purchase is even completed. 

It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that not all gift cards are created equal. 

Making that first touchpoint count 

When it comes to customer acquisition strategies, your choice of gift-card incentive communicates a wealth of information about your brand. It lets consumers know where your brand positions itself, and how it views its customers. 

The best gift cards will instantly engender positive feelings towards your business. They show that you ‘get’ your customers; that you want them to treat themselves to something they might not otherwise buy. They may only be 3.5-inch-wide rectangles, but these cards’ ability to speak on your behalf can’t be overstated. 

Our survey highlighted just how impactful the right choice of gift card can be in terms of customer first impressions.  

  • Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 71% said that if a company offered them a gift card from a trusted, premium retailer, it would positively impact their opinion of the company that gifted them.
  • An even larger majority – 80.7% – stated that receiving an M&S Gift Card would create positive feelings about the company that gave it to them.
  • 80.1% said they’d feel ‘truly delighted’ or ‘genuinely appreciated’ if they received an M&S Gift Card as part of a promotional incentive.
  • And when asked directly if the incentive of an M&S Gift Card would positively impact a purchasing decision, 70.7% agreed that it would. 

Why were M&S Gift Cards so widely agreed-upon as being enticing enough to incentivise a purchase? Well, our 1,000 survey respondents were drawn from an array of age groups and backgrounds, so there’s no neat, one-size-fits-all answer to that question. It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to generalise. 

But, through interviews M&S has conducted with consumers and marketers, we do know of four key factors that repeatedly come up in conversation when discussing luxury corporate gifts, and M&S Gift Cards specifically. 

  1. An M&S Gift Card feels thoughtful; it makes recipients feel considered and valued
  2. The huge M&S product range – synonymous with accessible luxury – offers special, desirable treats for everyone
  3. ‘The halo effect’: M&S is viewed as an ethical, trustworthy brand, which is particularly important for younger consumer
  4. The in-store M&S shopping experience is memorable and fun; a cut above the high-street and online norm   

These are the thoughts that stay with customers long after they’ve made a purchase with you, and long after they’ve spent their M&S Gift Card. These memories and associations linger, locking in strong brand connections that can last years.

Read our full report – shaped by a survey of 1,000 UK consumers – on the true impact of corporate gifting