Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.
Make your virtual events unforgettable with creative virtual swag boxes. Discover ideas and inspiration for your next event now.
It's a sign of the (pandemic) times; in-person conferences and trade shows are becoming less common—and virtual events and webinars are often replacing them. And while it's true that these digital events lack some of that "human" element that can't be replicated online, it's still possible to mimic the in-person event experience we've grown accustomed to. Carefully crafted swag boxes are just one of the many ways to replicate that experience. However, there are a lot of things to keep in mind when it comes to creating a virtual swag box.
What is a virtual swag box, and what is its purpose?
At its core, a virtual swag bag is an opportunity to use branded items to your advantage. When appropriately executed, swag boxes not only help your attendees enjoy your virtual event or conference but also improve recall of your brand.
Think back to those days of in-person conferences when you would go up to a vendor's booth, chat for a few minutes, and walk away with a mug or other branded item. This is the same concept; the only difference is that you're gifting swag bags to people virtually, to be enjoyed in the comfort of their own homes.
What are the different types of virtual swag bags for virtual events?
One of the great things about swag boxes for virtual events and conferences is that they are incredibly versatile. There are several types that you can choose from, depending on your needs and budget.
Employee swag bags for your town halls
With so many people working these days remotely, those virtual meetings can quickly feel a bit impersonal. If left unchecked, this could harm company morale and hurt productivity.
An employee swag box is a great way to get back a bit of what people left behind in the office before the pandemic. This could be a box filled with items to make your employees' lives easier as they continue to help further your company's mission. When buying for your employees, consider sustainable gifting for added value.
Virtual swag boxes for your virtual event attendees
Hosting a virtual event, such as a webinar or presentation? Gifting digital swag bags to your attendees is an opportunity to welcome new customers into the fold and remind existing customers that they're still important to you.
Virtual swag boxes for high-ticket prospects
Imagine that two separate but similar companies contact you. One sends you traditional marketing collateral, while the other sends you a box of swag. Which one is going to stand out the most in your mind? Curating swag boxes for your high-ticket prospects and leads is a great way to ensure that you stand out among your competitors, improving your chances of conversion.
Why use virtual swag bags for your virtual events and conferences?
In an increasingly digital world, swag boxes help to add a little bit of human touch while building stronger connections with your audience. Specifically, swag boxes are a great way to remind your employees, clients, and prospects how much they matter to you.
How to create your own swag box
The type of swag box you choose will vary based on:
- Who you're sending it to (employee, prospect, an existing client, etc.)
- The type of business you're running
- Your budget
All items inside the box should reflect your brand, its values, and the audience. While there is no "one size fits all" approach to putting together a swag box, there are a few best practices that you can follow to make the best impression.
Step 1: Decide on the type of swag you're interested in
First, decide exactly what type of swag makes the most sense based on the audience that you're playing to. This is where any past audience research that you've done for your marketing campaigns can come in handy. The more you understand about your audience, the better you'll be able to select swag bag items that will actually be of value to them. This, in turn, reflects positively on your brand.
Neal Taparia, who runs the trick-taking site Hearts.land explains, “We knew our target audience loves card games, so we created mini-decks of cards with our branding that we’d give out. People loved them and it created strong brand affinity.”
Step 2: Estimate a rough number of virtual swag bags
Another equally important step involves deciding on the exact number of boxes you'll need ahead of time. This will ensure that you have enough stock on hand and guarantee that nobody feels left out. This, too, will vary depending on precisely what event you're having. If you're sending out swag boxes to employees, you'll want to make sure you allocate one for each current employee.
Swag bag counts will be slightly different if you're holding a virtual event for customers, as you won't know precisely how many people will attend until things are already in motion. For the latter scenario, try sending out RSVPs so you can get a mostly accurate indication of how many people will be participating. Consider adding a 10% "buffer" to that number to account for any last-minute RSVPs.
Step 3: Define a per-box budget
Swag boxes are a great way to show appreciation and generate attention, but they can also get quite expensive if you're not careful. For the best results, decide on the amount of money you want to spend per box. This will help influence many of your decisions regarding what to include and what to leave out.
Step 4: Choose items to include in the box
Next, it's time to select the specific items that will be included inside the box. Take your budget per box and multiply it by the number of boxes you think you'll need. This will give you an overall budget, minus any shipping costs and/or processing fees that may not be included.
From there, explore all your available options and select items that will have the most impact without exceeding your budget. Keep in mind that you can also get a discount for purchasing certain items in bulk.
Step 5: Choose, design, and order the boxes
Next comes the selection of the design itself. Remember that presentation is essential, so you want to ensure that recipients enjoy the experience before they open the box to see what is inside. The box should have your business logo/colors and reflect your overall brand values. Don't underestimate the power of great packaging. In many ways, this is an excellent opportunity to create a positive first impression before your recipients even open the swag box.
Step 6: Find a trusted vendor
More than likely, you're not going to be creating the boxes yourself. This is why choosing the right vendor to handle the task is so important. The right vendor should be able to demonstrate that they can produce the number of boxes you need in exactly the way you've designed them.
Don't be afraid to ask for references from past satisfied clients and read testimonials/reviews online. A reputable vendor should also be able to produce samples of their work so that you can be certain that it all aligns with your vision.
Alternatively, you can make use of an email finder like ContactOut to look for a vendor. With ContactOut, you can search for vendors who specialize in producing custom boxes and packaging. You will be able to view the contact information of potential vendors, including their email addresses and website URLs. This makes it much easier to get in touch with potential vendors and learn more about them.
Step 7: Place your order and distribute your swag
Finally, you can place your order and get those swag boxes into the hands of the recipients. Be sure to send them out (or have your vendor send them out) in advance of the event to guarantee that everyone receives them on time and use order confirmation emails to keep everyone updated. This is especially critical if your attendees are spread out all over the state or even the country.
Sending out the swag early also allows attendees to unbox the swag and (ideally) share photos of your branded swag on social media and other platforms. User-generated content is an excellent way to build social proof and awareness for your event.
Ideas for your next big swag box
So, what exactly should you put in your swag box? If you are hosting an online event as a means of sharing information and getting your brand out there, consider putting together some virtual gift bags for those in attendance. After all, just because you're not hosting an in-person event doesn't mean your attendees should miss out on the excitement of picking up a swag box or goody bag!
Not sure where to begin when it comes to putting together and sending out a virtual swag bag? We've got plenty of virtual swag ideas that will have your audience talking and improve recall of your brand. Meanwhile, swag boxes for virtual events are better for the environment than "traditional" swag bags—and they typically don't require as much lead time to generate. Finally, virtual event swag can be easily personalized for that extra special touch!
You can put all kinds of things in a virtual goody bag ahead of your event.
1. Digital gift cards
Consider, for example, including a digital gift card to your company or another preferred vendor. Depending on your audience, you might even add a digital charity gift card as a means of including your audience in a cause that's important to your brand and its values.
2. Food delivery credits
You also can't go wrong with food delivery vouchers when it comes to virtual swag bag ideas. This is an especially great idea if your event will be happening during a popular mealtime, such as lunch or dinner. Attendees will appreciate the gesture while being able to order food delivery from their favorite restaurant ahead of the online event.
3. Physical swag
When putting together virtual swag bags for events, it's fine if the majority of your swag is digital. However, if you're looking to go above and beyond to make your event memorable, you may want to take the extra step of sending some physical swag directly to your attendees. You don't have to do anything too crazy or expensive here, but small and thoughtful gestures can go a long way. You can never go wrong with your logo design on a curated gift basket or even a personalized promotional item.
4. Wellness/Self-care kits
With more people working remotely, workers can easily lose out on their work/life balance. After all, when you can't leave your work "at the office," are you ever really clocked out? With this in mind, you might consider sending some wellness and/or self-care swag to your employees or clients who are working from home either temporarily or indefinitely. A great wellness kit will help remote workers relax and focus on their own health and well-being. This, in turn, can actually help them be more productive workers when they are in their (home) offices.
When selecting self-care items to include in a swag bag, you must know your audience and what they'll most likely use and appreciate. Some ideas to consider, however, include:
- a stress-relieving tea
- a comfortable blanket
- a vitamin C supplement (to boost the immune system)
- aromatherapy candles
- a crossword puzzle book or similar activity
- travel gift cards - perfect for a much-needed break from work and home
Many people who work from home are also enjoying the flexibility of ditching their professional attire in favor of more comfortable clothing. If you want to play on that with your virtual swag bag, consider sending in some casual clothing items that remote workers will love. From cozy joggers to zip-up hoodies and more, the possibilities here are endless. And, of course, you always have the option of customizing these items with your brand logo.
5. Seasonal gifts
Employees, clients, and prospects like to know that you're thinking of them at all times of the year. This is where sending out gift bags with seasonal gifts can go a long way. During the cooler months of the year, for example, you might fill a swag bag with things like cozy blankets, fuzzy socks, and hot cocoa mixes. During the warmer summer months, you can't go wrong with a nice pair of gender-neutral sunglasses, some branded flip flops, and a stylish beach blanket.
When curating seasonal gifts for your target audience, be sure to consider their demographics—and especially their location. While it may be winter where you live, a client in another part of the world may be in the middle of summer. Sending seasonally appropriate gifts to your clients and/or employees across the globe will go a long way in showing them that you care.
6. Eco-friendly swag
One of the biggest concerns regarding swag and promotional items is waste. Nobody wants to face the reality that, someday, their branded swag may very well end up in a landfill. This is specifically a danger when you send out promotional items that aren't tailored to your audience's needs.
The good news? There are plenty of eco-friendly gift ideas that you can consider for your next swag bag. You can feel good about sending these items and that your recipients can feel even better about using them. And, of course, you can enjoy knowing that you're doing your part to help protect the planet.
Some ideas to consider for an eco-friendly swag bag include:
- reusable water bottles (such as insulated stainless steel ones)
- recycled tote bags
- reusable straws
As an added bonus, sending out eco-friendly swag will demonstrate to your audience that you're committed to protecting the environment. This, in turn, can improve your brand sentiment.
7. Tech swag
When it comes to practical swag ideas that just about anybody will find useful, you really can't go wrong with tech gifts. After all, who couldn't use a few extra phone charging cables or a spare Bluetooth keyboard? These kinds of gifts can especially come in handy in an era where more people are working from home and thus may not have all the tech accessories they're used to having in an office setting.
Some other tech ideas to consider stuffing in a swag bag include:
- wireless earbuds (no more tangled cords!)
- Bluetooth-enabled speakers
- utility totes for laptops, tablets, and other devices
- wireless charging stations
When creating a swag bag with a tech theme, you may need to save some extra money in your budget. After all, these items do tend to be a little on the expensive side. However, these can be a great way to create loyal clients and/or employees. Plus, you can almost guarantee that these items will be used repeatedly.
However, remember that not all tech items are compatible with all devices. For example, gifting AirPods to every employee may not be the best idea, as not all of your employees are likely to own iPhones. Instead, consider choosing wireless earbuds from a third-party manufacturer that will be compatible with iPhone and Android devices.
8. Family-friendly gifts
Working remotely can be enough of a challenge, but adding children to the mix can make things exponentially more difficult for your work-from-home employees. Juggling the demands of work and parenting is never easy, especially when children may be home from school for the summer or for other academic breaks.
To ease the burden on working parents, consider putting together a thoughtful family-friendly swag bag. This bag should be full of items that will help to keep children entertained while freeing up valuable time for parents.
Some options to consider here include:
- coloring books
- activity books
- games and toys
When compiling gift bags for families, be sure to consider the age of each recipient's children so that you can send age-appropriate items.
9. Budget-friendly ideas
On a tight budget? You don't have to spend a fortune to wow a client or employee with a great swag bag. The key here is to stick with practical items your recipients will likely use the most. Some popular yet inexpensive swag items to consider here include:
- reusable shopping bags
- pens and stationery
- USB flash drives
If you decide to go the budget-friendly route, it's also a good idea to choose a theme. This will make your swag box a bit more cohesive, after all.
Virtual swag bag best practices
At the end of the day, when you're brainstorming swag for virtual events, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. For starters, you should always aim to be as creative as possible with your conference swag. This will help your brand stand out from the competition and improve recall. Whenever possible, personalize your swag to help your attendees feel even more appreciated.
Last but not least, when exploring swag ideas for conferences, be mindful of price. Not only can expensive gifting items deplete your marketing budget quickly—but this practice can also be misconstrued as a bribe of sorts if you're not careful. Generally, it's best to keep swag items under $50 per event attendee.
Ultimately, you know your audience best—so putting together a virtual swag bag of goodies that will be truly useful to your attendees will serve you well.
The final word on virtual swag bags
While the concept of the swag box is nothing new, the impression that a carefully curated box can leave is more powerful than ever.
These days, we're all looking for ways to reconnect with each other. People want to feel a sense of community—and they want their favorite brands (and even their employers) to participate as well.
A thoughtfully designed swag box goes a long way towards accomplishing that, which is why it's always an idea worth considering for your next virtual event or webinar.
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