The Psychology Behind FREE

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People love free, it goes without saying. Free samples at supermarkets, free giveaways at department stores, free samples of beauty products glued to pages of women’s magazines. But does FREE work as far as encouraging sales? In the case of the wholesale supermarket chain, Costco, it seems it does.

I’m a regular Costco customer and I’ve seen the sampling tables. I steer clear but my husband who has a black belt in bargain hunting always samples the fare. According to Joe Pinsker in his article, The Phsycology Behind Costco’s Free Samples, there’s no brand as strongly associated with free sampling than Costco. People have been known to tour the free samples tables for a free lunch.

Mini pizza bagels? Now we’re talking.

Paul Sakuma/AP

The psychology behind sampling is to encourage customer loyalty to stores and to brands. Free samples help consumers learn more about products, true, but according to Pinkser something else is going on in the minds of the consumer. For starters, about three-quarters of people surveyed took a free sample when offered one. And those who did take a sample were more likely to have taken other samples than those who didn’t. What does this say about consumers?  People are driven to samples more by their dispositions than by their perceptions of a product’s relevance to them.

After much research, I decided to apply this marketing strategy to selling my e-books and listed Secrets and Lies, the first book in the Detective Jill Brennan series, for FREE. Yep zilch. A big price reduction from $0.99 cents!!!  I didn’t like reducing the price to be honest. It took me three years to write the damn book.

But of course, this marketing strategy is nothing new. The idea behind the give away is to build interest. I’m hoping  readers will come to my site and buy another one of my books at some point.

Last century as an 18 year old, I enrolled at university and took a  physchology subject as part of a marketing degree. I like people and I’m interested in why we act the way we do.  Why are we drawn to FREE stuff? What is it about FREE that is so irresistible?

With FREE e-books I believe it’s because the reader doesn’t know anything about the author. They feel they have nothing to loose by downloading a free book. But, surely, this is why Amazon offers free samples.

I don’t downloaded free e-books. I’ve baulked at them just as I’ve baulked at downloading e-books for more than $13, even if they are written by my favourite authors. (However, I’ll pay up to $35 for a hardcover). It is because we perceive value as something tangible, something we can see and touch?

By giving the first book in the series away for free there is the hope an emotional response will be created. This strategy could well be the catalyst needed for a reaction to buy my other books and could be just what is needed to increase the visibility of my work. But, I’m also wondering if FREE may hinder future sales. Then again, a work has no value if it isn’t seen, right?

I looked with interest at my sales stats. Within days of listing Secrets and Lies, for free, sales spiked. For the life of me, I can’t understand why this happened. Readers are suddenly interested in the book because it’s FREE? Go figure. I can’t get around why a reader wouldn’t want to pay a creator of a work if it’s easy to do and is a reasonable price.

free-coffee-660x370

I’m hoping that like this cup of coffee here, someone will think hey, I got the first  book for free and it wasn’t a bad read, so what the heck, I’ll spend $0.99 cents and buy the second book in the series.

 “Reciprocity is a very, very strong instinct,” says Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University. Ariely believes if somebody does something for you—such as giving you a free e-book or a free coffee—you are likely to feel a strong obligation to do something back for them.  Let’s hope he’s right.

As far as e-books go, there’s a lot to learn about marketing – a lot to figure out. What’s your experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

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7 Responses to The Psychology Behind FREE

  1. janegorman says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Gina. It’s such a touchy subject these days, isn’t it? Have you found that sales of your other books have increased at all, with the increased downloads of the free book? I am concerned that there are readers who might connect free with low quality.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. gina amos says:

    Jane, no increase in sales on other books in the series, but early days yet.
    Free=low quality? You may have a point there but why download a book if you think it’s rubbish? As I’m typing this I’ve had another thought …I’m wondering about the possible existence of a sub-species of reader who only downloads free books…grrrr. If this is the case, the whole exercise has been pointless 😦

    Like

  3. Robyn Haynes says:

    Its a curly one Gina. Speaking from my own experience I would only download a free copy if I was truly interested and would then be influenced to buy another if I enjoyed the first. Perhaps its about placement – finding the right/interested niche audience to make the offer too? Not sure how to do that.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sue Coletta says:

    It baffles the mind. Over the holidays I had a 99c special and yet, I had strangers (strangers!) ask me to gift them the book. Can you imagine? One woman went on and on about how she couldn’t afford groceries, etc., etc. It’s an impossible situation, too. If you say no, you’re a bitch. If you say yes, you’re a sucker. Don’t even get me started. All I could think about was the months I bled on the keyboard for that book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gina amos says:

      Arrgh! What a disheartening experience, Sue. If these people are so desperate to read free books why don’t they join their local public library? They can read all the books they want there for free!

      Liked by 1 person

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Cafe Book Bean

Talk Books. Drink Coffee.

Z.B Simpson

Australian Spec-fic writer. Feminist. Weirdo.

Literary Legacies

Walking in the footsteps of great writers

A Holistic Journey

Finding my way back out of motherhood -- while mothering

Marcha's Two-Cents Worth

Random ponderings on the state of the Universe

notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Bryn Donovan

tell your stories ~ love your life

jean's writing

Jean M. Cogdell, Author-Writing something worth reading, one word at a time in easy to swallow bite size portions.

Discover

A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

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