6 Problems You Can Run into When Shipping Prizes to Contest Winners

Posted in: Digital marketingLast update: 01/08/22

Running contests and giveaways for your followers can be fun all around — people love having the chance to get something free, and it can be rewarding to set up a giveaway that encourages a lot of interaction and engagement. Once the winner is chosen, though, that’s when you can run into some speed bumps with shipping out the prize. Let’s go through potential trouble areas so you can avoid them from the outset.

1. International Address

This isn’t inherently an issue unless you didn’t plan on shipping internationally and forgot to specify in your contest rules. If that’s the case and you have international winners, you can end up shelling out a lot more cash than you expected. In that scenario, it’s usually better to save face and just use it as a lesson learned instead of having to “take back” the prize from a winner. 

If an international entry wins and you did specify that it was domestic only, you will have to make a decision. Try to check the profile of the winner first to see if they violated the rules — if so, it’s an easy fix to just re-draw. If their profile doesn’t give any indication that they’re from overseas, but when you contact them they reveal that they are, you have to decide whether or not you’ll revoke their win. To avoid embarrassment publicly, you can contact the winner before you announce, but consider that if you have a large portion of followers and customers from other countries, it might engender more goodwill to make the contest international, to begin with. 

2. Incorrect Address

Being given the wrong information is not your fault, but there are some policies you can have in place to try to avoid it. First, of course, is to request that the winner triple-check the address they entered to make sure all the information is correct. But there is an extra step you can take on your end as well.

shipping prizes to contest winners

When you collect the information from them, double-check it yourself on USPS’s Address Validator. If USPS makes suggestions for changes, bring the suggested address back to the winner to verify it before moving forward. It may be something small, like the spelling of “apartment,” or it could be something as big as a completely invalid address. This quick extra step could save you from a huge headache later on when the package is delivered to the wrong address or circulates in postage for a while before just being returned to you.

3. Unique Packaging

First, you should be trying to make the packaging a bit different than your usual — try to create a special unboxing experience for the winner. It should be celebratory in some way to indicate that they’ve won something special, which can include a personalized handwritten note, nice wrapping paper, tissue paper, confetti, or whatever else you can think of to make it a fun experience. It’s part of what makes giveaways a great, creative way to reinforce your brand voice.

However, this can lead to issues when going to ship this special package — is it a different size, shape, or weight than your typical orders? Will you need to get a different box, mailer, or use more infill to protect the item(s)? These are all things worth thinking about ahead of time so the shipment isn’t delayed after contacting the winner. And here’s a pro tip: Include a note encouraging the receiver to post about the prize and tag on social media, and give them your brand’s hashtags. 

shipping prizes to contest winners

4. Lost or Damaged Package

This is the most heartbreaking of all the problems, and unfortunately, it is also the one you have the least control over. Double-checking an address, being clear about rules, and writing a note are all quick, proactive fixes to future problems, but once the package leaves your hands, it’s up to whichever carrier you choose to get it there in one piece. If they don’t, what can you do?

To the winner, explain what happened and ship them a replacement. It’s not their fault or yours. On your end, buy insurance for the package so you can at least get reimbursed. Also, make sure it’s packed up safe and sound! If your products are in any way breakable, the box should be so insulated that it could be used as a football, and the items themselves will stay intact.

5. Winner Is Left in the Dark

The rest of your customers get tracking information so they can check obsessively to see when their package will arrive — your winner should get the same treatment! Because tracking information is usually sent and updated automatically after purchasing, it can be overlooked when running a giveaway. Make sure to ship their prize to them with tracking, and send the information to them as soon as possible. As a bonus, it’s an extra opportunity to connect with them and thank them for their participation. Building excitement is key if you want them to share the prize when they receive it.

6. Processing Overtime

You likely have a pretty set routine that keeps your processing time for orders down to a minimum. However, when something unique comes up (like a giveaway prize), every step can take a lot longer than usual. Everything we’ve listed here takes extra time — checking the address, wrapping it up nicely and safely, including a handwritten note, sending the buyer the tracking information — it all adds up. And because it’s not part of your day-to-day operations, it can get pushed back and end up taking much longer than it should.

First, try to get as much done ahead of time as possible. Imagine if, when you announced the giveaway, all the packaging and shipping materials were already obtained. The special wrapping can even be a part of the promotional shots. Then, when the winner is selected, having a checklist to work with can keep you on schedule. As a rule of thumb, try to keep the processing time within your normal processing time.

Another element that can throw your processing time out of whack is just how long it can take to compile the entries. Are you allowing multiple entries? What rules do they have to follow? Are you going to double-check each entry or just the winner? Make this step easier by employing a service like Easypromos, which will organize all the entries for you, and can even eliminate entries based on rules you set up. Don’t saddle some intern with the task of copying and pasting 3,000 usernames and expect it to be done in a day.

The big lessons here are to prepare for any way in which this process could go wrong, and build in actions to minimize the chances of those outcomes. A giveaway is a special experience for the brand, the participants, and the winner, and should be treated with extra care all around.

Jake Rheude

Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.

Publication date: 2021-02-03