What Is The Swag Shop?

What Is The Swag Shop?

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Branded swag has been around for awhile and there's a reason for that. This type of promotional merchandise is one of the most effective methods of facilitating customer loyalty, especially when the customer either earns these items or receives them as gifts. It doesn't matter what particular industry your retail business falls under, offering branded swag can only help strengthen the positive relationships you have with your customers.

What kinds of promotional merchandise are we referring to when we use the term "branded swag"? Take Starbucks for instance. If you walk into any given Starbucks Coffee, you will notice merchandise for sale such as mugs, cups, thermos', and other drinkware that all have Starbucks' signature branded logo--a long-haired siren lady wearing a crown with a five-pointed star who is either in the sea or has two fish tails… Oh please, don't act like you don't know exactly what we're talking about! Why does she have two tails? Why is she holding those tails up?? And what does a mermaid siren lady from the sea have to do with coffee???

Starbucks customers are inclined to buy these branded drinkware items, not because they're superior in quality to other drinkware products from competing coffee shops, but because Starbucks customers like the Starbucks brand because they love Starbucks coffee. They want to walk around town, go to the office, meet up with friends, and otherwise live their lives with a Starbucks thermos in their hand. And when they do, Starbucks receives the added benefit of this free promotion.

But with the Starbucks Coffee example, their branded mugs and merchandise aren't available exclusively. Anyone walking into their store can purchase their branded items. You don't have to be special or particularly loyal to Starbucks in order to tote around their merch.

Authentic promotional merchandise works a little differently, because exclusivity is an integral aspect. These products, which are branded with the store logo or slogan, are produced at very little cost and they're meant to be either earned or given away for free, because the purpose is to promote the store's brand and corporate image as a brand-awareness marketing strategy.

Branded swag that's available only to certain customers will be the focus of this blog post. If you've come across this article, then most likely you're a retailer who has a customer loyalty rewards program in place at your retail store, and you're interested in researching how branded swag, promotional merchandise, and a virtual swag shop can help motivate your loyalty customers to browse more, buy more, and earn more points, and--most importantly--quickly burn those points at your store.

We don't mean to make it sound like implementing a swag shop is all about the hustle. Contrary to how the last paragraph may have read, the fastest way to foster sales isn't by incentivizing transactions. Rather, when retailers focus on their emotional engagement with customers, the result tends to be enhanced customer loyalty. Customer loyalty programs that are the most successful are the ones that keep buyers involved in their brand with strategies like customer touchpoints, gamified reward systems, and rewarded social media interactions. For more on the art of tailoring your customer loyalty rewards program to increase loyal engagement, check out our articles How To Gamify Your Loyalty Program and How Your Loyalty Program Can Powerfully Brand Your Store

As far as getting down to business with implementing a virtual swag shop at your retail store for the purposes of strengthening and rewarding customer loyalty… let's dive in!


If you've been around the retail marketing block, then you've probably heard that turning shoppers into big spenders is easy with a "free gift with purchase" promotion. It's true. People love free things, so much so that interestingly they'll be willing to buy something in order to get something else for free… God bless 'em! Retailers have been using this trick for ages, especially when certain--often older--items prove difficult to sell. Once you tack on a freebie, those older, hard-to-sell products tend to move. Payless ShoeSource has been doing this for years with its famous BOGO sale--"buy one get one" free or half off.

Getting "two for the price of one" is a hard promotion to resist, which is why it's so effective, but then again, offering freebies rarely fails. What does fail, sometimes, is when customer loyalty rewards programs offer "bonus" or "free" points when a customer signs up and becomes a member. The problem here isn't the "free" part--that part always works! The problem is that when a customer is first introduced to a loyalty program, the word "points" really doesn't mean all that much. They tend to think, "500 points for signing up? What does that mean?" See, they don't understand the value of those points.

Your virtual swag shop is going to put an end to all of that, however. Instead of offering an amount of incentive points for signing up, we recommend that you use your swag shop to actually directly offer the variety of free swag items your customers can have their pick of when they sign up for your customer loyalty rewards program. Your sign-up marketing can offer, "a free branded tee shirt in the color of your choosing (500 point value)" or "a free stainless steel thermos branded with our logo (500 point value)" or "a free bottle opener keychain with our slogan (500 point value". When you offer your new loyalty members the item, and only mention the value of that item second, then they'll start to understand the real value of a point at your store. Remember: your virtual swag shop is a fun way to give away branded merchandise to loyal customers in exchange for their earned points.


Your swag shop is two things--virtual and only available to loyalty members. Your swag shop items are only one thing--completely unavailable anywhere else. Don't break this rule! Firstly, your swag shop is an online store. It's not located within your retail location. It's accessible online via your loyalty program app--please tell us your loyalty program came with an easy-to-use app so that your customers can spend their earned points at their convenience! The purpose of your swag shop being virtual also provides another benefit, which is exclusivity. Your swag shop sells items that are not available for sale in your retail store. These exclusive items are attainable only to loyalty rewards members.

What does this imply? A few things. You'll need to figure out which swag products and merchandise will be available within your virtual swag shop, you'll need to assign a reasonable points value to each swag item, and you'll need to choose where these swag products are being manufactured, but this last critical aspect will be discussed in the next section called Tiered Items.
As you delve into the project of building your swag shop, bear these facts in mind:

  • 66% of consumers remember a brand after they have received a promotional product from that company
  • 94% of customers are likely to show loyalty to a brand that offers complete transparency
  • 73% of shoppers prefer brands that personalize the shopping experience

Can you offer your loyalty members swag items that are personalized to them in some way? If your store's brand is on the front of a swag baseball hat, can the customer's name be on the back? Get creative and ask questions with the swag item manufacturer you've chosen to work with. Then, once you've decided which products and personalized merchandise will be uploaded and available into your virtual swag shop, be sure that instructions to your loyalty members about redeeming their points for these items is straight-forward. Remember: 94% of customers need to see complete transparency from a company in order to feel loyal to that brand.


Different products have different values. It's as simple as that, which is why every item for sale in your retail store is clearly marked with prices. There are top-shelf items, products on the clearance rack, and everything in-between--that's how a strong retail store is set up and the product placement is all strategic. You want your virtual swag shop to be set up with just as much thought and care. Depending on the ranges of points a loyalty member has earned, they are eligible to redeem those points on a variety of items, but all of those items are "shelved" along the same "tier". If a loyalty member has 30,000 points they'd like to redeem, your swag shop should be digitally organized and personalized in such a way that this customer will see all of the swag items they can purchase, ranging from the most-to-least valuable.

Even more important than the art of setting up your virtual swag shop comes the very important selection process of finding the best swag merchandise manufacturer. The fact of the matter is that tons of stores give branded products away, but not a lot of them put quality at the top of their priority list. Sadly, it's usually the opposite--these retailers want to get swag items as cheaply as possible. You probably do, too, but don't go so cheap that your customers get turned off.

You want to be ahead of your competition and you want to stick out in a positive, memorable way, so it's important to give your loyalty members--and anyone who sees those members wearing your swag shirt, hat, or tote bag--the impression that you have actually spent money on them. Making your customers believe that you were willing to financially contribute to a great shopping experience of theirs will cause them to appreciate you, and your brand, even more.

And remember: It doesn't have to be only your branded merchandise products that are available at your swag shop. You can also offer your best-selling and most-loved vendors' merch, too!


There is going to be a cost associated with creating any new promotional product. You're going to want to think about the costs, values, and purposes of each swag shop item you're considering including in your virtual swag shop. When you consider--and also calculate--the pros and cons of what swag can do for you, it will only help you better develop a marketing strategy behind each item and the points assigned to that item. Ask yourself: what do you want to accomplish? How will each piece of merchandise assist your efforts to increase customer loyalty and inspire customer engagement? What are the real dollar-and-cent costs and how will you profit in both the short and long terms? Ultimately, what will you gain out of it?

In practical terms, implementing a virtual swag shop is a highly effective and wonderfully passive way to literally make money 24/7. Why? Because your swag shop is online, available by app, and therefore always open. At any time, your loyalty members can conveniently open the app--available in both Android and iOS--and spend the points they've earned shopping at your retail store. This is a great strategy to keep customers shopping at your store and keeping the points system of earning and redeeming circulating.

As we mentioned before, for each swag item you'll have to decide how many earned points that item is worth--do the math so that you are receiving a return on your investment, but make sure that you don't set the points so high that the value of the swag becomes obviously expensive to your loyalty members. Remember: swag is meant to be a perk of loyally patronizing your store, not a burden. With respect to this point, you'll need to decide whether items will be available for pick-up at your store only, or if items can also be shipped. If so, at whose expense will they be shipped?

Further, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • It's impossible to achieve customer loyalty in a matter of seconds--hard work is required!
  • Not every promotional strategy is going to strike revenue gold--keep strategizing and tweaking!
  • Your swag shop offerings aren't just about promoting your brand--they're about satisfying your customers as well!

The Loyal~n~Save Swag Shop is unique because it's the first of its kind on the market. With our Swag Shop, customers can redeem their earned points easily within our mobile app, which is available for Android and Apple. The Swag Shop not only increases brand awareness of your store and the vendors whose products you sell, but it also keeps rewards points circulating through your store, because loyalty members are always earning and spending points at your business. All the while, your customers are functioning as walking billboards, wearing your branded merchandise--hats, tee shirts, sweatshirts, mugs--wherever they go!

With Loyal~n~Save, you never have to worry about point sharing when it comes to loyalty customers redeeming the points they've earned at your retail store. Our platform never participates in point sharing! If you're interested in our customer loyalty rewards program and our highly successful swag shop platform, then Contact Us to speak with a loyalty strategist today!

This article was written by Loyal-n-Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.
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Douglas Nolan
Written by Douglas Nolan

He believes in solving real problems with realistic technological solutions that stand the test of time. Seeing his clients struggle to retain consumers, Douglas decided to help his clients by offering affordable and top-class loyalty solutions. Doug loves transforming the lives of his employees by assisting them to develop a solid blend of TQ (Technology Quotient) & SQ (Spiritual Quotient) to excel in their professional & personal lives.

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