Make Your E-Commerce Customers Trust You by Donating with Each Purchase

Image of Scott Baradell
Scott Baradell

Why do people give to charity? One reason is that it makes us feel better about ourselves. A second reason is that it makes other people feel better about us, too; they trust us more when they see us being charitable,  studies show.

That's why when we do something nice for others, we usually let people know about it.

Research by Amihai Glazer and Kai Konrad in American Economic Review suggests that fewer than 2 percent of charitable contributions are given anonymously. What's more, when charities publicly bracket donors by tier (e.g., silver, gold or platinum donors), the great majority of donors make a contribution that is at or just above a tier threshold, suggesting that at least one of their considerations is social signaling.

What does this mean for your e-commerce website? That your customers will trust you more if you contribute to a nonprofit of their liking. And if you make the contribution contingent on their purchase, it makes them more likely to buy from you as well.

Donation with purchase has been around at least since the '80s, when American Express used the technique to raise money for renovation of the Statue of Liberty -- donating a penny every time one of its customers made a purchase with their credit card. The Amex campaign is widely credited with launching the trend in cause marketing embraced by thousands of companies ranging from TOMS Shoes to Starbucks.

In the world of e-commerce, the most popular donation with purchase program is AmazonSmile. Through the program, Amazon donates 0.5% of eligible Amazon purchases to the nonprofit of the customer's choosing. The donation doesn’t cost the buyer anything, and customers can choose from a long list of charities.

Alternatives to AmazonSmile include iGive.com, which teams with more than 2,000 e-commerce websites to offer donation with purchase to eligible nonprofits.

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