How to Use Reciprocity in Marketing For E-Commerce Business

How to Use Reciprocity in Marketing For E-Commerce Business

As any digital marketer knows, a successful e-commerce business isn’t built on selling products. The relationships you build with customers foster long-term loyalty and trust in your brand. One marketing strategy that helps build those essential customer relationships is called “reciprocity,” which relies on mutual exchange between consumers and companies to create better value for both parties over time. 

In this post, we’ll discuss how reciprocity can make all the difference in building meaningful connections with your target audience—ultimately making your e-commerce business more profitable and sustainable.

What is reciprocity in marketing?

What is reciprocity in marketing?

This principle pertains to the human tendency to reciprocate when given something. It clarifies the quid pro quo in which individuals feel compelled to take certain actions because they feel indebted.

The principle of reciprocity finds expression in our daily lives in various ways. Take, for instance, buying a friend a birthday gift because that friend did the same for you on your birthday or planning a visit to a friend who visited you a month ago. These are just some examples of how the norm of reciprocity operates as a guiding social principle in our day-to-day activities.

How does it work? The reciprocity experiment

In 1974, sociologist Phillip Kunz conducted an experiment where he mailed handwritten Christmas cards, along with a note and a family photo, to around 600 randomly selected strangers. To his surprise, he received roughly 200 replies. The principle of reciprocity explains the phenomenon. In this case, many felt obligated to respond after receiving the kind gesture of the holiday card.

Using the Principle of Reciprocity in Marketing

To nurture strong, enduring interpersonal relationships within our communities, the laws of human psychology can be leveraged to foster longer-lasting relationships with our customers. Employing this principle can result in authentic engagement with existing and prospective clients, allowing for increased revenue and referrals with minimal expenditure on advertising. 

However, it is crucial to note that poorly executed strategies can harm rather than help. Businesses must strive for authenticity, avoiding blatant attempts to solicit specific responses that come across as solely profit-driven. As an example, consider a sales interaction where a laptop bag is offered as a gift without an overt expression of expectation. Natural promotion tactics engender trust in customers and secure their loyalty.

The Principle of Authenticity

The principles of authenticity and reciprocity are interrelated and critical to successful marketing. Neglecting depreciates your approach’s value, with an increased risk of being perceived as unserious. It is a powerful technique to offer your customers something valuable without expecting reciprocation. This creates a positive gesture that enables customers to receive value without obligation. Consider a laptop salesman drawing upon these principles to convert leads to customers; demonstrating the value of your product is critical to successful conversion.

Reciprocity Ideas for Businesses

Ensuring that each step you take impacts your target customers and elicits a positive response from them is a big plus. Remember, the ultimate goal is making sales, achievable only by winning over your customers. Here are a few ideas you may leverage to attain this objective

1. Be the first to give.

Giving before you can receive is important, and the same applies to businesses. Giving something attractive, unique, and rarely given by competitors, such as discounts, rewards points, or coupons, is an effective approach. Be sure to give at the start of the sale to trigger a quick response. Additionally, providing an extra incentive at the end may be worthwhile. Employing the principle of reciprocity can be advantageous. A referral-based price reduction is one example of a potential offer.

2. Make your customers feel special. 

Make your customers feel special. 

Providing a unique experience to customers is essential for creating a lasting connection and building loyalty. One way to achieve this is by offering them the freedom to choose their rewards rather than limiting them to pre-selected options. 

This gesture demonstrates a genuine appreciation for customers and emphasizes that their satisfaction is your top priority.

Offering shopping vouchers is a fantastic way to make customers feel appreciated and valued. In addition to providing immediate savings, they may feel inclined to continue shopping at your store, even once the voucher has been used. This can help cultivate long-term customer relationships and lead to increased revenue.

3. Make it memorable. 

Creating a memorable brand comes with many benefits, and increased sales are just one of them. Of course, there are other important advantages. So, how can you ensure that your business is unforgettable? The answer is simple: provide something of lasting value that will stick in the minds of your customers. 

To achieve this, offering durable rewards is a wise choice while avoiding cheap and insubstantial gifts. For instance, providing holiday discounts in your store can attract budget-conscious consumers seeking fun seasonal experiences. By cultivating such a culture, you can position your shop as a top holiday destination, even without freebies. Offering timely value and incentives is a strategic path to success.

4. Keep the relationship going. 

Keep the relationship going. 

As a business owner or marketer, it is imperative to nurture customer relationships beyond just the sale. Maintaining relationships is crucial for your future success. Consider incentivizing your loyal customers with discounts on new purchases and alerting them to upcoming offers. Doing this will strengthen your brand-customer relationship and generate recurring revenue.

5. Help the customer outside of your store.

Engaging customers beyond the storefront is a thoughtful gesture that reinforces brand recognition and encourages customer loyalty. You may be pleasantly surprised to see repeat business generated by these interactions. Providing informative content, such as “How to…” articles, can effectively engage customers. Though the pay-off may not be immediate, you will witness tangible results sooner or later. This generous approach of assisting customers beyond just sales will ultimately favor your business’s purchasing decisions.

6. Offer customers ways to show their support. 

Offer customers ways to show their support. 

It’s not always about making a sale; sometimes, it’s just as meaningful to encourage customers to show their appreciation in other ways. Consider directing them to your social media pages, where they can provide feedback by writing reviews and rating your brand. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box on how your clients can support your business. Always remember that there’s no limit to what you can achieve. Be creative.

Types of reciprocation

The various forms of reciprocation that we’ve discussed fall into two categories: emotional and financial/material.

1. Emotional Reciprocation

This is when you make others feel good or appreciated by saying things like,

  • Thank you for your time.
  • It is my pleasure to meet you or
  • It was a great time to work with you.

When you communicate in a way that boosts others’ self-esteem, they feel an unconscious urge to respond positively or cordially.

2. Material or Financial Reciprocation

Unlike emotional reciprocity, which is often communicated with words, material reciprocity tends to be physical. An example could be lending a washing machine to a new neighbor as a welcome gesture. Subsequently, the neighbor may feel compelled to reciprocate in some way by also extending a kind gesture.

4 Reciprocity Examples in Marketing

Let’s review how businesses use reciprocity to engage and maintain customer relationships today.

1. Spotify Premium free trial

Spotify Premium free trial

Spotify Premium provides ad-free music streaming paired with offline mobile access. Additionally, Plus now offers a 30-day free trial of Premium for individuals to enjoy, with the  option of cancellation at any time. With a reasonable $8/month subscription fee, some may find it difficult to cancel the membership once the trial period ends.

2. Amazon Prime free trial

Amazon Prime free trial

Amazon Prime’s free trial offers customers free ONE-day delivery, music, and videos. The offer is an incentive for new customers as there are no commitment requirements. If you already use Amazon, the savings from free delivery costs for purchasing more than 2-3 items per year would become apparent

3. YouTube


YouTube is a classic example of a platform providing users access to free content while benefiting from advertising revenue. Moreover, content creators leverage this platform to share their expertise and garner subscribers, ad revenue, and more. YouTube also offers a premium subscription and entices users with a “Free first episode,” which persuades them to sign up for this service to view the rest of the season.

4. Backlinko


Brian Dean is a notable figure in the field of SEO. Even though he offers free information, it’s only part of his business model, with the primary source of revenue being the sale of his SEO courses. These courses are not advertised on his website but only available to those who subscribe to his email list. Furthermore, he informs his subscribers in advance when a course is scheduled to be launched.

With this in mind, content marketing is an excellent strategy for reciprocity, particularly through blogging. By creating valuable content in the form of blog posts, you demonstrate your commitment to your audience. It is essential, however, to ensure that the focus is on providing genuinely helpful information to your readers.


The use of reciprocity in marketing is a great way to convert leads and entice customers. With the right approach, you can maximize the amount you’re able to give and receive. Consider what kind of reciprocal relationship you want to establish with your loyal customers, maybe giving a reward for referrals or some other form of giveaway. Pay attention to customer feedback, appreciate it by responding and interact further if appropriate. Show gratitude for their support whenever possible, as this can build relationships that are mutually beneficial for both parties.


What is reciprocity in marketing?

This principle pertains to the human tendency to reciprocate when given something. It clarifies the quid pro quo in which individuals feel compelled to take certain actions because they feel indebted.

2. What are the top examples of reciprocity in marketing?

The top 4 examples are

1.Spotify Premium free trial
3.Amazon prime free trial

3. What are the types of reciprocation?

There are two types

1.Emotional Reciprocation
3. financial reciprocation


Shivani is a content writer at InviteReferrals. She writes SEO articles, blogs, and guest posts for businesses to improve website ranking on SERP. She follows a balanced approach for the quality of content and its marketing. She loves to do creativity, although she had an English major in her graduation.