Digital gift bags are efficient, economical and best of all—measurable

If you haven’t received one yet, it’s coming. It’s lightweight, you won’t forget it under your chair after the keynote, you won’t feel guilty tossing out what you don’t use and there’s no need to make room in your suitcase to bring it home. Swag bags, goodie bags and party favors are all going digital.

There is something to be said about the personal touch of a goodie bag strategically crafted by planners, likely well into the night before a big event. But you might want to review the features of its digital counterpart before dismissing it altogether. The personal touch is far from removed; it’s more intimate than ever.

Attendees can conveniently open their virtual bags from their smartphones and tablets via text messages and emails that link to your site or app, where they can receive discount codes, free offers and can even enter contests run by the host or event sponsors. Hosts have full control over what is in the bag, where it’s positioned among other content and how it’s being offered to attendees. They can also decide when the bag is available so that attendees may view it before, during and after the event.

Perk for Planners

A digital swag bag tosses all the logistics of shipping and/or traveling with favors right out the window. No more counting each water bottle, lip balm, granola bar and gift bag, no more lugging the leftovers back to the office (or hotel room) when the event is done, and risk of running out of supplies.

“All an organizer has to do is [submit] their list of sponsors and invite them to take part,” explains Kathy Cohen, head of marketing for Zoliro. “Then sponsors add their own offers online, getting suggestions on which digital gifts will work best for their objectives, and submit the offer for approval.” Cohen says this allows planners to focus their time on other aspects of event planning. They just approve the sponsors’ offers before they’re made available to attendees. But it isn’t just a time-saver. Compared to the cost of a physical bag, a virtual one can offer higher value at less cost, because of its digital nature. At Zoliro, direct cost per attendee for a virtual bag is $1.20.

Attendees’ Appreciation

Attendees benefit, as well, since they can drop their phones in their pockets and travel from one session to the next hands-free to greet, tweet and interact without worrying about their bags.

Because each swag bag is custom-built around your event, venue and cause, it can be as personalized as you choose to make it. So attendees won’t feel you’ve lost your personal touch—in fact, with the ability to track which gifts are opened and how often, you can learn more about attendees, which will allow you to deliver even more customized offers in the future.

Canada Army Run, a military race with 25,000 participants, used multilingual virtual bags from Virtual Event Bags that included 39 offers, from discounts off of branded apparel and services to health supplements, samples, contest entries and more. Each offer was clearly branded with photos, logos and videos. Offers were arranged based on demographic niche, and sponsors could see in real-time how their offers were performing.

No offense to the beverage koozies and branded water thermoses—but digital gifting allows hosts and sponsors to deliver the gifts attendees really want, which will likely encourage them to return to your next event.

Sponsors’ Delight

Sponsors love the ability to deliver digital gifts to attendees because of the reporting capabilities that aren’t possible with tactile goodie bags. Companies such as Virtual Event Bags and Zoliro offer reporting dashboards that can show which offer codes and coupons were used most, how often the digital bag was opened and even what was purchased with the coupons.

“Sponsors understand that the audience is very targeted and engaged, and are willing to put in real effort to incentivize attendees to opt in and start the conversation,” Cohen says. “The way [attendees] use the product tells us the truth about how they feel about it.”

Tracking spending behavior revolutionizes the way sponsors and event planners make decisions about what to provide guests. Live goodie bags are judged merely by the real-time reactions spotted on showroom floors and verbal feedback, which—while still valuable—can’t represent attendees to the same scale that reporting can.

At Techsytalk Live, hosted by Liz King Events, email invitations were sent before and after the event, via a link included in the events’ mobile app (powered by DoubleDutch). Reports showed nearly 80 percent of attendees visited the bag and came back nearly five times.

As a result of these interactions, sponsors receive more valuable leads than they would otherwise, and have the power to decipher how their product or service will be presented in the virtual bag, from the physical placement within the interface to the graphics and text describing the product.

A Green Future

Paperless itineraries and event maps were the first step in economically responsible meeting and event trends. Virtual swag bags are a sensible next step to greener, smarter meetings.