Did you ever walk through the exhibition hall of an in-person conference? It might just be me, but one of the best things is collecting giveaways from all the sponsors.

What about virtual events? People can’t just walk over to your booth and collect some neath gift bags. Great, we can save some costs on that aspect!

Well… while that is true, you would be missing out on a huge opportunity to build brand awareness and to engage the audience in a unique way. So, skipping sending the audience virtual event gift bags is probably not the best strategy to get the maximum amount of value from a virtual event.

You’re probably not the only vendor who will send the audience gift bags; whether it’s for an event that you sponsor or host yourself. Other companies will be sending gift bags as well. So, how do you stand out from the crowd?

An option would be to just send the most expensive and exclusive gift bags, right? Well, unfortunately, there are some restrictions related to the value of gift bags. In some industries, people can’t accept gifts that exceed $50. This differs per country, so make sure to check your local legislation! This has to do with anti-bride laws.

So there are some dos and don'ts. Don’t worry though, in this guide I will share some best practices related to virtual event gift bags, some examples, and I’ll explain the difference between sending gift bags to the address of your audience and sending digital gifts bags. There are pros and cons to both of them!

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start with understanding the basics. Just so that we are all aligned!

What is a Virtual Event Gift Bag?

A virtual event gift bag is a collection of giveaways that you send to the audience of a virtual event. This can be a physical gift that you ship to the audience or a digital version that you can send by email. Virtual event gift bags are used to improve brand awareness and to engage the audience. It’s also an extra opportunity to generate more return on investment.

Virtual event gift bags provide a better experience for the audience. While virtual event fatigue is setting in, event organizers and sponsors need to find alternative ways to ensure that the audience is engaged.

Your audience wants to feel included and they want to feel important. Virtual event gift bags provide an opportunity to event organizers and sponsors to fulfill this need.

The worst thing that could happen is that you spend a lot of money on a virtual event and the audience is just not paying attention. Money through the drain!

There is a high-performing alternative to virtual events that will drive more engagement and your audience is guaranteed to feel included. In other words, the chances of a positive return on investment are much higher! More about this later in this article. 

Physical or Digital Virtual Event Bags

As mentioned earlier, there are two option when it comes to sending your audience virtual event gift bags:

  1. You send physical gifts to the address of your audience;
  2. You send a digital gift bag to your audience.

Naturally, there are some benefits and disadvantages to both options.

Physical Gift Bags

Let’s focus on the pros and cons of sending your audience physical gift bags.

Pros

  • A lasting opportunity to build brand awareness if you send an item that your audience will use for a long period of time.
  • You’ll get more commitment from the audience to actually show up for the event.
  • It’s easier to create an experience by theming the gift bags.
  • It’s more likely that your audience will take a picture and share it on social media.

Cons

  • You need to collect address details which sometimes can take a lot of time and effort.
  • You require more lead time for the event due to shipping times.
  • There may be shipment errors, causing the package to arrive late.

Digital Gift Bags

Now, let’s look at the pros and cons of digital gift bags for virtual events.

Pros

  • Many fulfillment vendors integrate with your marketing automation platforms, allowing you to track the engagement with your digital gift bag.
  • It’s easy to personalize.
  • Better for the environment.
  • You need a shorter lead time to get the gift bag to your audience.

Cons

  • The impact is lower as people don’t have something physical to hold in the increasingly digital world.
  • People might not claim their digital gift bag because it’s overlooked in their overflowing email inbox.
  • People will forget about it faster.

Examples of Virtual Event Bags

Now let’s have a look at some examples of virtual event gift bags to get you inspired.

1. Charity Gift Cards

Charity gift cards always work well. Even if people have corporate restrictions on what they can receive, charity cards are almost always accepted.

The key here is to stay unbiased. There are many charity gift cards available that allow people to select their preferred charity.

Charity Gift Cards
Charity Gift Card

2. Amazon Gift Cards

Amazon gift cards are a great choice since there is always a use for it. Almost everyone bought something through Amazon. The downside is that it’s not very personalized.

3. Coffee Gift Cards

Who doesn’t like a nice cup of coffee? Depending on the type of virtual event, you can send your audience a coffee gift card. They can get a nice cup of coffee and enjoy it while attending your virtual event.

4. Food Delivery Voucher

This is very effective for virtual events such as executive round table sessions. These often happen during dinner time, so why not send your audience a food delivery gift card so that they can participate while enjoying some nice food. Do you want to host a virtual roundtable session? Here is my guide on how to set one up effectively.

5. Hampers

There are hampers in all shapes and sizes. They are often personalizable, so you can alter the contents in a way it makes the most sense related to your virtual event. Perhaps you’re hosting a virtual event during Christmas; a great opportunity to send a Christmas themed hamper.

Hamper - Virtual Event Gift Bags

6. Conference Gift Bag

Are you hosting a large virtual conference? With in-person events you’d typically have conference bags for your audience. Why not send a conference bag to your audience? This will give them a feeling that they’re attending a large-scale event.

Conference Gift Bag - Virtual Event Gift Bags
Conference Bag

7. Virtual Event Wellness Kit

I’ve mentioned virtual event fatigue; It’s a real thing and people are getting tired of sitting behind their laptop all day. Imagine attending a virtual conference that takes the full day. Well, make the experience a bit nicer for your audience by sending them a virtual event wellness kit. 

Virtual Event Wellness Kit - Virtual Event Gift Bags
Virtual Event Wellness Kit

What are virtual event bags best practices?

When it comes to sending virtual event bags, whether them being physical or virtual, there are some best practices that you have to take into consideration.

  • Be creative and stand out from the crowd;
  • Don’t send something too expensive so it feels like a bribe;
  • Always aim to personalize;
  • Create an event theme and experience. Make them feel part of the experience through the event bag.
  • Leave enough lead time for shipping items. There will be some errors!
  • Avoid basic items such as pens; we have enough of them!
  • Send something that they can use during the virtual event.

Virtual Event Gift Bags Fulfilment Vendors

Earlier I mentioned that there are fulfillment vendors that integrate with your marketing automation platforms.

These vendors do all the heavy lifting. They will ship the items (both physical and digital virtual event gift bags), they will pack and consolidate individual items, but they will also give you metrics related to your campaign.

In addition, as they integrate with your marketing automation platform, you can set up triggered campaigns. This will save you a lot of time!

For example, let’s say that you want to send a physical virtual event gift bag to every approved registrant. You can automate this, so whenever you approve someone, they will ship the gift bag to this person automatically.

However, there are shipping times to take into consideration. In order to make sure that everyone gets a gift bag, you want to send a digital gift bag to every approved person within 7 days prior to the event. You can set up automation that:

  • Sends a physical gift bag to approved people until 7 days prior to the event;
  • Send a digital gift bag to approved people within 7 days of the event.

This will save you a lot of time, but more importantly, this ensures that every attendee received something; Even if there are late registrations!

There are loads of vendors that can help you with this. My recommendations are Sendoso for US-based campaigns and Reachdesk for EMEA-based campaigns. Other vendors are Thnks and Alyce.

The high-performing alternative to virtual events bags

Now, let’s have a look at the high-performing alternative that I promised earlier. If you’ve followed Markletic for a while, you know that in order for virtual events to be successful, you need interaction. Interaction will lead to audience satisfaction.

According to research that we completed earlier this year, attendee satisfaction is considered a success factor by 85% of marketers. (Markletic, 2020)

However, interaction is not enough. You need active involvement from your audience. Of course, the right virtual event gift bags will lead to a form of involvement, but you can take it to the next level.

Take audience interaction to the next level by arranging in-event entertainment.

What does this look like in practice? I’ve hosted many virtual events where I arranged a form of entertainment. A few examples below:

  • A chocolate tasting experience;
  • A wine tasting experience;
  • Fine-dining experience.

You get the idea. Prior to the virtual event, you will send something to your audience. During the event, you will have an expert explaining the tasting session. This is a golden opportunity for networking.

So basically, you send something to the audience and you’ll give it a significant slot on the agenda. People will feel valued, they will feel involved, it’s something different and it’s something they will talk about to others after the event.

The most recent activity I hosted was a chocolate tasting experience. The audience received a box of 14 of the best selling chocolates of a vendor. Then the vendor joined the event and explained the harvesting process, the machines they used, how they dry the cacao beans et cetera. The audience loved it and we received great feedback on social media.

Of course, something like this requires excellent virtual event planning. Are you looking for a virtual event planning template? Then have a look at this article I wrote: Your Concise Guide to Virtual Event Planning.

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Written by
Ricky Wolff
Ricky's North Star is growth. He is the founder of Markletic, a blog about growth hacking and demand generation in marketing.