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What are the Different Types of E-Commerce Promotions

Who doesn’t love a great deal? Finding a discount or bargain is something that nearly everyone’s on board with.

Studies have even found that roughly 93 percent of shoppers use a coupon or discount code at some point during the year. They’re that popular!

When you’re running an E-commerce store, promotions give you the chance to generate more leads, convert more of those leads, increase sales and raise customer satisfaction. So it’s a good thing all around.

But how do you know which specific types of E-commerce promotions to offer?

In this post, we’ll suggest you 10 ways for effective e-commerce promotions that brands have had the most success with so you’ll know which might work best for your business.

1. Seasonal promotions

These involve special deals or discounts that are centered around a particular event during the year. Of course, you’ve got your classic holiday promotions like Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Christmas.

But you’ve also got summer, fall, back-to-school, graduation and so on.

There are even hundreds of non-traditional holidays that you may be able to capitalize on depending on your niche. National Donut Day, No Diet Day and Clean Up Your Room Day for example. Check out this resource from Holiday Insights for the complete list.

Seasonal promotions are great because they allow you to increase revenue during times of the year when sales may be down otherwise. And when they’re booming (like during the Christmas season), you can maximize your profit even more.  

2. Cyber Monday sale

This piggybacks off of seasonal promotions and is an absolute must for E-commerce stores.

According to Adobe Insights, Cyber Monday resulted in a record $6.59 billion in sales in 2017—a 16.8 percent increase from 2016. It’s the largest online shopping day in the US by a landslide, so it only makes sense that you’ll want to take advantage of it.

Offering exclusive Cyber Monday deals is a way to quickly move a lot of product and see a massive spike in sales. Typically, percentage based discounts work well for this and are an effective way to bring exposure to your brand.

3. End-of-season sale

Just as each season has a beginning, it will inevitably have its end. And this too presents an opportunity. End-of-summer sales are one of the most common and a time when many people are on the lookout for deals.

It’s also a great time to get rid of excess inventory.

4. Free shipping

Free shipping can be a huge incentive for online shoppers. Many people don’t want to be hassled or take on the added expense of shipping. As a result, it can encourage more people to visit your app/website, thus increasing your number of leads.  

An added plus is that it can help small E-commerce stores compete with major brands like Amazon who offers free two-day shipping to its Prime members.

5. Buy one get one (BOGO) free

If you really want to grab a shopper’s attention, a BOGO free offer is definitely one of the best ways to do it. There’s something incredibly alluring about the prospect of buying one item and getting another for absolutely nothing.

As Matthew Hudson points out in The Balance Small Business, “The most important part of writing effective ad copy is to have a compelling offer. And BOGO free is compelling.”

He adds that “BOGO free is one of the best ‘perception’ offers you can use.”

While this won’t be viable for every brand because of the chunk it can potentially take out of profitability, it’s certainly something to consider. And if you primarily sell low-cost items or digital products, it can work really well.

6. BOGO at a discount

An alternative that relies on the same premise as BOGO free but yields higher profits is to run a BOGO at a discount promotion. For instance, a customer may receive 25 or 50 percent off of the second product with their purchase.

What’s nice about this type of promotion is the perception of savings. Hudson explains, “The reality is if you do a BOGO 50 percent off, it is the same as 25 percent off your entire purchase for the customer, but it feels like so much more.”

So if BOGO free isn’t in the cards, a BOGO discount might be.

7. Discount on the first purchase

This one specifically targets new customers and is a great way to get online shoppers interested in your brand. A popular format is to offer a percentage based discount like 50 percent off of the first order.

If someone was on the fence about taking the plunge, this can often get them to take action. And when you consider the potential payoff for the repeat customers you get out of it, the impact can be dramatic.

8.Flash sale

This is a newer type of promotion that’s short-lived (hence the name flash) and usually lasts for anywhere from a few hours to a max of 36 hours. There’s also a limited quantity of items, which means that the discounts tend to be higher than with most other sales.

A flash sale is effective because it can motivate shoppers to purchase right away. After all, once time runs out, it’s over. In turn, this creates a sense of urgency and scarcity—both of which are very powerful from a psychological standpoint.

It can also be a catalyst for expedited growth for online sellers. In fact, a study by Reuters found E-commerce websites that specialized in flash sales grew at least twice as quickly as other online merchants during the holidays.


9. Mystery deal

What’s behind door number one? For many people, not knowing creates real excitement and anticipation where they’re dying to find out.

The aim of a mystery deal is to pique the curiosity of shoppers so that they feel compelled to see what their deal is and ultimately visit your app/website.

Typically, you will distribute this type of promotion through a channel like an email or social media. Using eye-appealing design, the offer will explain that the person has received a mystery deal, and they will have to click on a button to see the details.

Even if the discount isn’t amazing, it’s a nice way to shake things up a bit and raise interest in your brand.

10. Email discount

This one kills two birds with one stone because it allows you to increase sales while at the same time grow your email subscriber base.  

Now there are a couple of ways to use this strategy. One is to offer some sort of discount in exchange for signing up to your newsletter. This can provide the extra bit of incentive that some people need to get over the hump.

Another is to offer discounts that are exclusively for your subscribers. While it probably wouldn’t be feasible to do this for every single email, peppering in some promotions from time to time most likely is.

An added benefit is that this should help increase your email open rate as well as overall engagement.

Deciding which promotions to use

There’s certainly no lack of options when it comes to E-commerce promotions. And that’s a good thing. This gives you a plethora of different choices.

The only problem is knowing which specific promotions you should use.

How do you know which of these are best for your brand?

It really boils down to what your goals are. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • You’re looking to increase sales during a slow time of year (e.g. the post-holiday slump that many retail businesses face)
  • You’re looking to capitalize on predictable sales spikes like Cyber Monday
  • You want to build brand awareness with your target audience and reach a specific segment of that audience
  • You need to get rid of excess inventory
  • You want to grow your email list

Because you’re likely to have multiple goals, be sure to prioritize them and focus on those that are most pressing initially. Then you can always move onto others at a later time.

It’s also vital that you measure the results. As you accumulate more and more data from each campaign, you should have a better idea of which types of promotions you’re having the most success with. That way you’ll know which ones are worth repeating and fine-tuning and which should be scrapped moving forward.

Therefore, it’s important to use an analytics platform that’s capable of supplying you with the necessary data.

On top of that, it’s wise to perform ongoing A/B testing to determine what your customers react the best to. For example, you might run a test where you measure the conversion rate of BOGO free versus BOGO at a 25 percent discount.

Motivation through incentivization

E-commerce promotions are potent. But just how potent?

One study found, “Up to 50 percent of consumers make a purchase only when an offer or promotion is involved.”

So there’s no doubt that the right promotion can have a profound impact on your business. It’s just a matter of choosing wisely and executing correctly.

Which of the promotions above interests you the most? Please let us know:


Image Credits
Featured image: bruce mars / Pexels
In-post image 1: Artem Bali / Pexels
In-post image 2: StockSnap / Pixabay


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