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3 Ways Retailers Can Use Ecommerce To Give Back To Communities

Astro with holiday gifts

The season of giving will be like no other in 2020. So, how do you support your community in the absence of traditional methods like special in-store events and pop-ups?

Matt Marcotte is the global head of Retail and Consumer Goods Strategy at Salesforce.

The holiday shopping season always presents retailers with opportunities to give to those in need, but this year, the level of need — and the shopping experience — will be unprecedented. Unemployment numbers continue to climb, and nobody can predict exactly what’s going to happen with COVID-19 this winter.

With store traffic artificially capped due to customer safety concerns and the majority of consumers reporting that they will do most if not all their holiday shopping online, the opportunity to drive donations through in store give-back programs will be greatly impacted. Instead, retailers can easily create charitable donation opportunities through their ecommerce and marketing channels. 

Taking things online might actually create more opportunity to scale your give-back programs. Here’s what every retailer can do to help those in need during the 2020 holiday shopping season. 

Buy one/give one

We’ve already seen retailers step up in incredible ways, whether it was to support essential workers throughout the pandemic or extend their mission to serve those in need. Some of our favorite customer examples of buy one/give one programs include:

Sky Outfitters

For every clothing item sold, another item is donated to a homeless organization. Check out the brand’s commitment to the giving cycle.

Chalk Talk

To support the life-saving work of the American Red Cross during COVID-19, Chalk Talk has donated $5 for every Sports Will Be Back product.


When customers purchase a “Sponsor a Hero” Package, Aritzia donates the same clothing items – high-quality, comfy, easy-to-wash shirts and leggings – to a frontline COVID-19 healthcare worker.


Dearfoam’s buy a pair, give a program gives healthcare workers a free pair of slippers when customers make a purchase. 


The “Give Thanks” campaign, created in response to COVID-19, donates a tumbler to a medical facility for each tumbler sold.

Retailers can take a cue from these stellar examples for the holidays. A buy one/give one campaign is easy to set up. As a first step, update your promotions engine within your commerce solution. You can take this Trailhead learning path to learn how to configure, qualify, and control your promotions. Then, connect marketing and commerce to put customers on a unique campaign journey

Digital donations

Retailers have a chance to get creative by partnering with a local organization to drive sales through fundraising. At checkout, add a special field that invites customers to donate a specific amount of money, e.g. $2, $5, $10, to your organization of choice. 

You can also add a pop-up on your homepage that directs customers to your give-back program, or maintain a page on your help center with ways you give to the community and how customers can take part.

Virtual pop-up events

In lieu of the classic in-person special event, try exclusive, virtual experiences to showcase products or services and promote your campaign. 

One convenient channel for virtual pop-ups is Instagram Live videos, which remain available for 24 hours for customers’ participation. Show off products, provide styling tips, or host a Q&A with an influencer. Encourage viewers to go to a dedicated give-back page on your site to make a purchase, where they will automatically receive a special discount with a percentage of proceeds going to a local organization. Be sure to include that link in your bio so it’s easy to find after the event. 

This year’s season of giving

The “season of giving” will have a whole new meaning in 2020. Digital channels provide the opportunity to get creative and scale give-back programs in big ways to help those in need.

Discover more tips on preparing your business for a historic shopping season in Your 2020 Holiday Retail Strategy & Planning Guide. 

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