5 Creative Swag Ideas For Ecommerce Brands At Trade Shows

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The modern trade show is something of a cluttered mess. Once upon a time, the attendees to a trade event would be effectively sequestered from their regular professional and personal lives. This might sound traumatic to anyone accustomed to 24/7 smartphone use, but it was a good thing — or a productive thing, at least — because it pushed people to actually pay attention.

Temporarily trapped among myriad stalls, they would resolve to make the best of it and start doing things like prompting conversation or actually learning about the products on display. No such luck now. Instead, visiting a trade show has become more about generating social media coverage and marketing content. This makes life much harder for the brands in attendance.

So let’s say you’re heading off to a trade show to rep an ecommerce brand, and you recognize the challenge you’re facing. You’ve not got the budget to hire a marketing agency to create a master plan for you — you’re going it alone. You need to compete for attention with three distinct rivals: the other brands in attendance, networking-fixated attendees, and the non-stop torrent of web updates.

How can you stand out in such circumstances? Well, thankfully for the attendees, the answer is swag: partially in your attitude, but mostly in the free items you give out. In this piece, we’re going to look at 5 creative swag ideas that can work really well for ecommerce, so let’s begin:

Personalized gifts

What do you expect to see at trade shows? Probably tables covered in bowls of miscellaneous plastic items: clips, pens, and baubles of all varieties, with everything completely generic. The result is a free-for-all of swag-grabbing fever — but is that the only way to proceed? No, in fact, because you can take a different route: offering personalized gifts.

You can’t do this for everyone, obviously, but you’re going to know some of the companies that will be represented there. Take the time to prepare some swag specifically for them, with their names, slogans and/or logos clearly added. This is a fantastic way to stand out. They’ll be flattered that you targeted them specifically, and flattery will get you everywhere.


Yes, slips of paper (however glossy) aren’t very appealing when presented alongside fancier items, so you won’t get very far setting them out and expecting people to grab them — but there’s a reason why I see value in giving out glowing testimonials from your happiest customers. Swag bags.

It’s become very common for a trade show to have a swag bag for each attendee: something they’ll most likely be given upon entry. This means you don’t need every piece of swag to be eye-catching. If something is in the bag, it’ll get a glimpse at the very least. Social proof is powerful, so letting someone else make the case for your company shows confidence. Just don’t use fabricated comments! If you can’t get real ones, don’t bother at all.

Illustrated booklets

As noted, the average trade show resembles a modern monument to mass manufacturing. Plastic, plastic, and more plastic. It all feels so artificial and apathetic, with everything handled in a personality-free manner. Why not switch things up with something that shows actual care and creativity? There are various options, but I suggest some illustrated booklets.

You can farm out the illustration, but I don’t think you should. Do it internally, even if there are no artists on your team — especially if there are no artists on your team. Highlight that reality, because you’re not running an art company. The point is to show passion and commitment — and anyway, there are plenty of graphic design tools around nowadays; producing something professional-looking isn’t all that tricky… As for what the booklets should be about, why not tell the story of your brand’s origin?

Sample packs

You want people at trade shows to see what you have to offer, but what’s the best way to do that? Hand out a full list of everything you sell? That’s somewhat abstract. You can hand out individual items instead, but that’s limiting. If you split the difference, you can create some useful sample packs that can really get people thinking.

This really depends on the nature of your business, obviously: if your brand only offers one product (just one exceptional item), then that’s all you can offer. But if you have a full range, then why not pick out a selection of small items to give out together? You can even keep the costs down by adding some items that aren’t selling well.

Custom drinks

I’ve been to events where brands set up food and/or drink stalls, and it always goes down well because people get tired from wandering around all day and want some refreshment. You could do something like that, but unless you have a giant budget, you probably won’t be able to set up something of that magnitude — but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something similar.

Instead of setting up a stall, have some custom drinks prepared and bottled up (in recyclable bottles, for obvious reasons) so attendees can simply grab them and take them. If you make your custom drink extremely notable — whether it’s good or bad — then people will talk about it and remember it afterwards. And if you have your brand details clearly marked on the recyclable bottles, they’ll know how to get hold of you.

There are so many possible swag options for trade shows that I couldn’t list them all in a piece thousands of times longer than this one, but these 5 suggestions will certainly help you stand out from the crowd. Don’t mess about with pens or stress balls. Run with something different — it’ll pay off.

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