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Stuart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, once said, "Information wants to be free." Online merchants have been using a variation of this idea for years—give something free, then sell something. This also is known on the Net as the Yoda Principle: "Give, then take." Although this idea is not new to commerce (businesses have been using loss leaders for decades—selling products below cost to get shoppers into a store), it's the right formula for the Internet.

A good example of this strategy is the free virtual bouquet that many flower sites offer visitors. Come to their site, send a free virtual bouquet via email, and perhaps become a paying customer of real flowers in the future. In a similar vein, you can send a virtual greeting card to anyone on the Net by using many of the greeting card sites. Their hope is to have you buy their real greeting cards at some later date. Another example is the search engine optimization services. They'll give you a free report on where your site appears in different search engine search results, in hopes of selling you their search engine optimization service after you see how badly your site ranks against your competitors.

Giveaways also provide an opportunity to cross-promote with other non-competing web stores. You can offer one of your products or a compatible service free to other web stores.

For example, if a site sells auto accessories, and you sell insurance products, you might offer a free comparison insurance quote. Or if a site sells running shoes, you might offer a free pair of athletic socks with each purchase. The trick here is to get the customer from the other site to visit your site to get the free product or service. The partner web store gets the sale and you get additional visitors.

Besides giving away a product, information, or service, offering discount coupons is another strategy to attract shoppers to your web store. Research by Forrester has shown that the average click-through rates for online banner ads with coupons are 20%, compared to .065% for standard banner ads.

Use these promotional strategies and you can increase your traffic and your sales on your web site.

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