The Power of the Premium: How Increasing the Quality of Your Bonus Can Improve Conversion Rates

by Sherice Jacob

Last updated on August 3rd, 2017

Back in 1986, a researcher named Jerry Burger set up an experiment to test the power of getting a bargain.

At his Santa Clara University stall during an art fair, Jerry was selling cupcakes and cookies — with a twist. Half the customers who came to his booth were told immediately that a cupcake and two cookies cost 75 cents. The other half was told that each cupcake cost 75 cents.

At this point, a second cupcake seller purposefully interrupted the first, saying that their offer was even sweeter — anyone buying a cupcake could get two cookies for free!

Although only 40% of the people told about the price of the “bundle” up front made a purchase, fully 73% who were told that the extra cookies were free elected to buy.

cupcakes: an experiment in bonus offers

In a second study, Burger set up a cupcake stand, telling some of the participants that each cupcake was 75 cents. Others were told that cupcakes cost a dollar, but here again, a second cupcake seller interrupted the first to say that their booth was closing soon and they were reducing their price to 75 cents.

This time, 44% of people who were told that 75 cents was the initial price ended up buying, but as much as 73% of people who were originally in the “one dollar” camp and thought they were getting a deal, made a purchase.

Both experiments shed some interesting light on human buying behavior.

The first showed that when you give people more than they expect, you increase their propensity to act considerably. Beyond value, if people think they’re getting a deal, they’ll be more likely to open their wallets as well.

In some cases, reciprocity comes into play because people think the seller is doing them a favor and they feel obliged to react similarly.

What compels people to act this way? Science hasn’t found the answer to that yet, but despite its age, the study’s results have been carried over to the web with undeniable success — to a point.

Problem: The Bonus Backlash

Consider the last time you bought a digital product, training course or service. Did the bonus offers further cement your desire to purchase or were they simply hard-drive-cluttering filler?

Many times, online marketers and service providers do their best to lump together a collection of e-books, videos, worksheets and other digital downloads in an attempt to give the perception of value.

In the early days of the web, this worked quite well. E-books were a novel thing and with the advent of digital readers like the Kindle and Nook, these kinds of products were poised to head the e-reader revolution.

The problem is, now that everyone’s doing it, these types of products no long have the novelty or attraction they once had.

ce free

The fact is, so many copycat marketers have not only diluted the perception of value, but they’ve also resorted to cheapening the offer, so that not only does the customer not feel like they got a bargain — they feel like they got duped in the process.

And a customer who finds no real value in your offer is one that will not hesitate to share their experience and air their grievances online.

Solution: The Building of Better Bonuses

So how can you, as a responsible marketer, stand out and turn the tide of the bonus from hard drive trash to tasty digital cupcake? Let’s take a closer look.

Derek Halpern of fame is a master of bonus bundling. His method is known as the “bonus sandwich,” and it works like this:

The meat of the sandwich is your main product or offer. The bonuses are going to be the top and bottom pieces of bread to make a complete “meal.”


First cupcakes and cookies, and now sandwiches — getting hungry yet?

The top bread is a bonus that’s directly related to the main product. It’s something people can use immediately after they purchase. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income elaborates on the “top bread” method through an example of a product that’s about creating web-based videos. “Top bread” bonuses in this case could be:

  • An ebook about how to promote your videos on YouTube for maximum exposure
  • A 2-part video about how to transcribe your videos for maximum SEO juice
  • Access to a members-only community where you can share your videos and get feedback and comments to help you improve.

But so far, that’s only half of the bonus sandwich. There’s also the piece of bread on the bottom of your bonus that could be a little trickier to figure out. Pat advises that you do three things to find your bottom bread bonus:

  1. List any objections, fears, or doubts a prospect may have before using your product
  2. List any mandatory requirements that a customer would have to have before being able to use your product
  3. Simply ask your audience

Going back to the web-based video product, you could offer something that counters the hidden objection people have about putting themselves in front of a camera, or how to record what’s on your screen so you don’t have to be in the spotlight at all. Another example could be a diagram of digital recording or camera equipment that you can buy and set up at home for under $200.

Whatever your bonuses are, they should be so tightly woven into the use of your main product that even if people somehow get the bonuses for free (as is often the case with digital products), they’ll practically have to buy the product anyway to get the best possible use out of them. Let’s face it, a bread sandwich really isn’t that appetizing.

Bonus Offer Examples You Can Learn From

Want to see exactly how the right high-quality bonuses can make an impact on your conversion rate? One example comes from Cloudways, a managed cloud hosting service.

Using Picreel exit-intent technology, they promoted an offer that would not only provide the customer with a free migration to their service (the top part of the sandwich), but would also pay a customer double if they were unhappy (the bottom part of the sandwich).


The result was a 6% conversion rate increase which, when you’re selling high-end, custom-managed servers, is no pocket change.

Another, more substantial example comes from Brian Dean of Backlinko.

He noticed that some of his fellow blogging colleagues were going well beyond the “give value” part of the equation with a freebie, but actually creating a freebie to go along with every blog post they wrote!

Brian decided to try this same tactic with one of his pages. This was his conversion rate before the custom freebie (he calls it a Content Upgrade):

backlinko pre conversion

And after — a whopping 785% increase. And no, that’s not a typo. Enviable by any optimizer’s standards!

backlinko conversion

Both of these case studies further reinforce the original allure of the 1986 study:

  1. Give people something of value (emphasis on value — remember, it’s not what YOU think is valuable, it’s what THEY think).
  2. Give them real, tangible reasons to feel like they’re getting a bargain — not just artificially inflating the numbers on those bonus products to make it seem like they’re more valuable than they actually are.

By following these examples and creating bonuses that are high quality, chock-full of helpful, actionable steps and could very well be stand-alone products on their own, you’ll be growing your list, improving your conversion rate, and giving customers something they can really sink their teeth into!

Now It’s Your Turn

What are your thoughts on bonus offers? What’s the best product bonus you’ve ever received after a purchase? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Sherice Jacob.



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Sherice Jacob

Sherice Jacob helps website owners improve conversion rates with custom design, copywriting and website reviews.  Get your free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up by visiting


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  1. Anonymous says:
    February 13, 2016 at 3:22 am

    You should take part in a contest for one of the most useful
    websites on the net. I will highly recommend this website!

  2. July 22, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Finally, you were able to put into words what I have been thinking for years now about diluting the perception of value. I was searching for ideas of a bonus to offer clients who purchase our services and this article helped me to see what makes the most sense. I follow both Derek AND Pat, and it didn’t occur to me that either of them may have discussed bonuses before. Thanks for the great read!

    • July 22, 2015 at 8:16 am

      I’m glad you found you answer. Good luck!

      • Andrea says:
        July 23, 2015 at 3:20 pm

        I did, I did! thanks again 😉

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