Contest ideas to attract traffic to your e-commerce site

Contest ideas Banner

A great way to draw traffic to your site is to create an exciting incentive for people to visit it. Sweepstakes, competitions, and lotteries are all popular contest ideas that draw people in and help grow your business.

In the process, they raise brand awareness and an opportunity for you to build relationships with both current and new customers. They also allow you to gather personal information about your visitors, thus growing your email database and helping you fine-tune your customer personas.

In this post, we share some ideas for attracting customers to your site using contests and explain how to go about it.

Different types of contest ideas

There are three main aspects that can form part of any contest:

  • A prize:
    This can be anything of value.
  • Chance:
    This usually involves the random drawing of a winner, with no control on the part of the participant or the competition holder.
  • Consideration:
    The participant is required to make some effort here, like paying an entry fee, or buying or creating something.

The way these are put together determines the type of contest you are running:


Link to source

Here are the definitions of each term, courtesy of Sara Hawkins:

  • Sweepstake (also called a giveaway):
    Sweepstakes are prize giveaways where the winners are chosen by the luck of the draw. Prizes can be almost anything from handmade cards to an all-expenses-paid trip.
  • Competition (also called a contest):
    Competitions choose a winner based on some merit. The winner is chosen based on some criteria such as best photo, best product name, best photo caption, best video, etc.
  • Lottery:
    A Lottery is a prize drawing where people must pay money to buy a chance to win. Lotteries are highly regulated and should not be run without consulting legal counsel.

How to identify your contest idea and then run with it

Follow this process:

1) Decide what you want to achieve

As a first step:

  • Set a target so you can structure the contest idea around that. For example, 500 new email subscribers, 25% more Facebook likes or R10,000 more in sales each month. Knowing your marketing goals will help here.
  • With that in mind, will a competition or sweepstakes serve you better? Competitions work well to build brand awareness, while sweepstakes attract the most entries (and therefore the most email addresses) as there is very little effort required. Lotteries will probably be the least useful as your e-commerce customers won’t want to pay to enter.

2) Choose a prize

The point of the competition is to attract quality potential customers for your business, so it makes sense to offer something exciting and closely related to what you sell. For example, if you sell food or toys, you might give away a gift voucher or a bag of goodies from your store. Or if you are a plumber, you might offer to install a solar geyser for free, knowing your customer will probably call you out next time they have a plumbing problem. If you’re not sure where to start with choosing a prize, this Value Proposition Framework may help.

This is an example of a site that offers a chance to win a pair of shoes in exchange for your details. You could use social media or ads to drive people to this giveaway, and from there they will discover your site.


Link to source

3) Get clear on how you will choose a winner

This will depend on the kind of contest idea you have settled on. For competitions, you can pick a winner yourself or get others to vote on the best entry, generating even more interest. If you’re going with a random draw, keep the contest fair by using an online tool like Rafflecopter or


4) Decide how you will advertise your contest

Reaching out to your current customers via email and social media is a good first step. To attract new customers too, get people to share to their networks e.g. by offering additional entries for everyone they refer. Extend your reach even further by partnering with related businesses, getting well-known and influential personalities to promote your contest and/or running Facebook ads.

5) Bring it all together in the competition rules

By law, your contest must have official rules which participants can consult. Cover your bases by using a template like this Sweepstakes Official Rules Template. Writing the rules up will also force you to think through the process and work out any remaining details of your contest idea.

6) Prepare what you need, then launch!

Now you’re ready to get started on your preparations. Make sure that all your advertising looks great by using the best quality and most attractive images you can find. The process also needs to be clearly explained, so people know exactly what to do. Then get the show on the road with the biggest splash you can!

7) Review and refine your contest idea

When you’ve done it once, review your results and the process, and make a list of what could be done better. Assuming it really worked for you, you may even want to schedule a few contests a year, strategically positioning these around your business and marketing goals.

2 E-commerce examples of successful contests

Let’s look at two real-life contest examples. These will help you see how the elements discussed in this post could be woven together into a comprehensive contest that works for your audience and your business.

Web-based sweepstake


Let’s imagine you have an online jewelry store:

  • You construct a new page on your website where you show a picture of a necklace from one of your latest ranges, which you are offering as a prize for filling in a form. The prize is significant – something any women would want.
  • You communicate this on social media, set up Facebook ads and send emails to your existing database announcing the giveaway.
  • You also announce that you will award every entry with 20% off on their next purchase.
  • Entries are limited to one per email address you receive, but entrants receive a bonus entry if they also give their telephone number for future SMS campaigns. Or they could get a bonus entry for sharing with their Facebook friends or if they refer another subscriber. Your page needs to allow for this functionality.
  • You announce the winner publicly at the end of the sweepstake period and use photos of them in your social media posts.
  • You may decide to make this giveaway a regular event, perhaps linking it to the launch of each new range.

Social media-based contest using customer-generated-content


As another example, let’s imagine you have an online furniture business:

  • You decide to run a South African Style contest, across all your social media channels, ‘featuring’ your customers using your products. For example, your product may be the modular bookshelves in the picture above. Or the TV or the light features.
  • Your customers need to send in photographs of how they have used your product to help create a beautifully styled room in their house or in their garden. Your followers then vote for the winner.
  • You could run the contest for a specific time period, with only one winner at the end, or even better, select a winner a week. The weekly winner gets a worthwhile prize or significant discount on their next purchase.
  • Weekly winners may also then be entered into a final competition, with the grand prize at the end being something significant from your store. This creates a lot of further engagement and buzz.

Depending on how well it is done, this type of contest can attract media and local community interest, creating further exposure for you for free.

More contest ideas to get you started

Useful contest tips

Remember that you don’t have to do it all yourself:

  • Get happy customers working for you by making it a condition of entry that you can re-use contest submissions for marketing purposes.
  • Make use of easy-to-use apps and online tools that are designed to help you with contests and marketing in general, like Gleam and Wishpond.

Contest ideas galore

Get creative with variations on these contest ideas:

  • Sweepstakes for action
    Offer a random draw prize selected from everyone who does a specific thing that builds your business. For example, if they opt into your email list, vote on their favourite product, follow or like your Facebook page, or share, tag a friend or comment on a specific post.
  • Photo caption competition
    Pick (or take) a photo that shows your products and/or brand, then ask participants to come up with the most creative caption for it.
  • Reward customer-generated content
    Get participants to submit a video, short story or comment about why they love your products or services, or how they use them.
  • Expose your products
    Ask participants to submit photos of themselves using your product, either on Facebook or Instagram and with a specific hashtag attached.
  • Get your branding out there
    Ask participants to brand something with your logo or slogan, and submit a picture of it. They could use fabric paint on a t-shirt, icing on a cupcake or face paint on their face.
  • Generate new branding
    Get participants to suggest a name for a new product, a slogan for your company or a company mascot.
  • Test your customers
    Create a quiz that tests your customers’ knowledge of your products or services. Make it competitive by getting them to publish their results on social media, challenging their friends to do better.


Here are a few more contest ideas to make things more specific.

The bottom line

Done well and with the right idea, contests are literally a win: win for everyone. Your winners are happy, other customers can hope to win the next time around, and your business gets a boost on every level.

What contests have you run or enjoyed taking part in as a participant? Share your experiences, feedback and tips in the comments section below.

Share this content!

Use us to change your game

Get in touch for a free consultation today

Stay informed! Visit the SA Department of Health's website for COVID-19 updates: