Successful “Surprise and Delight” Techniques Customers Will Love


In a world filled with marketing strategies, “surprise and delight” stands out as the secret weapon for small business owners, startups, and sales teams looking to perfect their customer service skills and boost affinity with their brands.

This article unveils the magic behind the surprise and delight approach, demonstrating how it can boost retention and cultivate fervent brand loyalty.

What is surprise and delight marketing?

The term “surprise and delight” refers to exceeding your customers’ expectations on a regular basis, thus creating a positive emotional reaction. 

It can include delivering unexpected results for customers that create an emotional reaction as well as satisfy the need they had for your product or service. 

Consider the unannounced features that come with a new iOS upgrade. Small, quality-of-life improvements like being able to share a wi-fi password with one tap. While this may not shift more iPhones, it will make existing Apple users that little bit happier, and may encourage them to stick with the brand.

You can also deploy surprise and delight with an unexpected gift or add-on. We all want to be the lucky passenger who gets told at bag-check they’ve had a free upgrade to business class. But, it can also be as small as finding that a Vinted seller has bundled a packet of sweets in with the clothing you bought from them.

As for who came up with the surprise and delight concept? That’s lost to the sands of time, but there are numerous figures who’ve honed and expanded on the concept. 

How surprise and delight can be effective

Studies reveal that incorporating surprise elements in customer interactions can significantly enhance satisfaction and retention rates.

  • L Abbott (1955) introduced the idea that “what people really desire are not products but satisfying experiences.”
  • Oliver et al (1997) was among the first to discover evidence that “customers want to be delighted rather than merely satisfied before they become loyal”.
  • Reichheld and Markey (2011) found that customer delight is “the only kind of growth that can be sustained over the long term.”

A study conducted by Air Miles Corporate (formerly Loyalty One) shows that 94% of customers who received a surprise gift or special recognition felt more positive about the company. 34% of them said the experience led them to give the company more business.

Different ways to implement surprise and delight

“Surprise” and “Delight” are intertwined in the phrase. But, each can be distinguished based on their core characteristics:

Surprise involves catching customers off guard in a positive and unexpected way, often exceeding their expectations. It’s about introducing an element they didn’t anticipate. Practical examples include:

  • Limited-time offers: launching exclusive, time-sensitive discounts or promotions that customers weren’t anticipating (and genuinely feel tailored to them).
  • Unexpected gifts: sending surprise gifts or samples with a purchase, going beyond what the customer ordered.
  • Personalised communications: tailoring communications or marketing materials based on specific customer preferences, surprising them with content or a service that resonates.

Delight, on the other hand, focuses on creating a positive emotional response and a sense of joy or satisfaction. It’s about going beyond meeting expectations to create an experience that brings happiness. 

Practical examples include:

  • Exceptional customer service: resolving issues promptly and going the extra mile to ensure a seamless customer experience.
  • Personalised recommendations: offering product or service recommendations based on the customer’s history and preferences, demonstrating a deeper understanding of their needs. 
  • Exclusive access: providing exclusive access to events, early product releases, or members-only perks, giving customers a sense of exclusivity and delight.

To tailor these methods, understanding the essence of your brand is crucial. Your surprise and delight strategy should reflect your business’s personality and unique selling proposition. 

Once this foundation is laid, you can delve into the nuances of your customers. A good customer relationship management (CRM) system or your own customer knowledge base should have all the details needed to help you analyse past interactions, preferences, and purchase history. Armed with this information you can discern patterns and preferences. 

From there, ensure that each surprise mirrors your company values and resonates with what the customer wants and needs. For instance, if your brand is eco-conscious, surprises could lean towards sustainable, eco-friendly gifts. 

Consider seeking direct feedback from customers through surveys or reviews to fine-tune future surprises. In essence, the key is to weave a narrative that seamlessly merges the brand narrative with the individual stories of your customers. This can create a timeline of delightful moments that leave a lasting impact.

Understanding your target audience

Understanding your target audience is the cornerstone of effective surprise and delight initiatives. Here are five practical tips to guide you in segmenting and personalising surprises based on customer demographics and preferences:

  • Customer insights: leverage the power of data analytics to better understand your audience. Analyse customer demographics, purchase history, and online behaviour to uncover patterns that can inform personalised surprises.
  • Customer surveys and feedback: directly engage with your audience through surveys and feedback forms. Ask about preferences, interests, and their ideal experiences. Your voice of customer data can provide invaluable insights for crafting surprises that truly resonate.
  • Social media listening: harness the real-time conversations happening on social media platforms. Discussions related to your brand, industry, and relevant trends can unveil unfiltered opinions and preferences, guiding your surprise strategy.
  • Lifecycle segmentation: your audience is diverse and has varying needs at different stages of their customer journey. Segment customers based on their lifecycle with your brand, tailoring surprises to align with their specific needs and expectations.
  • Personalised communication channels: choose communication channels wisely. Some customers may prefer emails, while others engage more on social media or through in-app messages. Understanding these preferences allows you to deliver surprises through channels that resonate most with your audience.

Ideas for surprise and delight campaigns

Surprise and delight campaigns are the heartbeat of exceptional customer experiences. Here are three practical and creative ideas to infuse your strategy with a touch of magic:

  • Mystery box unveiling: send customers a curated mystery box filled with exclusive goodies, each item unveiling a unique aspect of your brand story. It’s not just a product; it’s an experience waiting to be discovered.
  • Personalised video shoutouts: elevate the personal connection by sending customers customised video shoutouts from your team or even the company’s founder. It adds a human touch that resonates far beyond a written thank-you note.
  • Random acts of kindness day: designate a day for surprising customers with unexpected acts of kindness. These could be free upgrades, extended trials, or even heartfelt, handwritten notes. It’s a day where every interaction becomes a delightful surprise.

Amazon’s Golden Box Campaign

Amazon once ran a surprise and delight campaign called the “Golden Box“. Random customers received golden boxes with incredible prizes, ranging from high-value gift cards to exclusive product launches. 

This created a buzz and also showcased Amazon’s commitment to going above and beyond for its customers.

Companies excelling in surprise and delight

These case studies showcase how going above and beyond creates a lasting impact on customer loyalty and brand perception.

1. Zappos

Known for its legendary customer service, Zappos surprises customers with unexpected upgrades to expedited shipping, making the shopping experience convenient and delightful.

The late entrepreneur and former CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, was a pioneer in prioritising exceptional customer service. Zappos became one of the most pivotal case studies for surprise and delight, with its commitment to going above and beyond to help create memorable experiences for customers.

2. Airbnb

Airbnb has mastered the art of infusing surprise and delight into the culture of its platform, encouraging hosts to create unique and memorable travel experiences for guests. The platform has ways to make this easier for both parties, too.

Whether it’s personalised travel guides that cater to individual preferences or tips on acceptance and inclusivity in their learning centre, Airbnb educates and encourages hosts on ways to surprise and delight. This includes leaving a bottle of wine or a box of pastries for guests, helping transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

3. Lush Cosmetics

Lush Cosmetics stands out as a prime example of seamlessly blending surprise and delight into its marketing strategy. Beyond the enticing array of products, Lush goes the extra mile by orchestrating surprise in-store events that captivate customers, ranging from product launches to interactive workshops.

Lush also extend its commitment to delight by incorporating unexpected free samples with online orders. This thoughtful gesture exceeds customer expectations and ensures that each online purchase is accompanied by a delightful surprise.


Small businesses can harness “surprise and delight” to build lasting connections, foster loyalty, and redefine brand reputation. 

As you try this method out for your small business, remember: the ordinary is often forgotten, but the extraordinary is remembered. Surprise away and watch your business thrive.


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