eCommerce Promotion Ideas and Online Sales Offers That Drive Orders
No matter how successful your eCommerce website is, you should always be looking to implement promotions & online sales to improve your conversion rate and boost revenue.
In this guide, we’ll offer promotion ideas and also review proven ways to make your website sales highly successful.
Coming up with eCommerce promotion ideas can be tough, but will ultimately pay dividends when implemented correctly. Offering promotions and special offers to potential customers is an effective method for boosting your conversion rate, acquiring new customers, making the most of your advertising spend, and increasing online sales and revenue. Best of all, these online sales can also be used to encourage new visitors to become loyal, repeat customers.
Why Is Utilizing eCommerce Promotions and Special Offers So Important?
The fact is, today’s online consumers are savvier than ever. Combine that with the fact that there are more online buying options than ever before, and it’s no surprise that it can often take additional persuading to get your visitors to click that checkout button. In that context, consider your eCommerce promotions to be one of the most valuable persuasion tools available to you. Every online shopper wants a deal and to know they are getting the best price possible when making their purchase.
If you do it right, you can end up with statistics that look like this (real client’s stats comparing a sale period vs. no promotion active on the website).
Boosting eCommerce Sales With Promotions and Special Offers
Now that we understand the role special offers and promotions play in an eCommerce website, we’d like to share some powerfully simple promotions that we have seen work wonders for our clients. Of course, no two sites are identical, and what works in one industry may not work in another. Before implementing any of these ideas, make sure you are poised to collect any data needed to determine their effectiveness. That way, you will have tangible evidence behind your decisions and you can make permanent changes to your eCommerce store with confidence. Some of the promotion functionality we discuss may be included within your current eCommerce features, while some may need a developer for implementation.
Some of the Most Effective eCommerce Website Sale & Promotion Ideas Include:
- Free shipping promotions (on individual products, categories, or order total)
- Percentage-based sales (offer a certain percent off a brand, product, or order total)
- Buy-one-get-one (BOGO) offers or buy-one save on another
- Quantity discounts – the more you buy, the more you save!
- Rewards points programs to build a loyal customer base
- Contests & giveaways
- Flash sales / one-day sales
- Free gift with purchase promotion
- Discount for an email list subscription
Below are details on our top eCommere sale ideas
Free Shipping Promotion
It’s no secret that everybody loves free shipping. Additional shipping charges during the checkout process contribute to cart abandonment, also known as the Achilles’ heel of the eCommerce website. Apart from eliminating an expense many of your visitors may be expecting, free shipping can simplify the entire sales process.
Highlight free shipping using a visible icon or message on your product pages.
These days in the era of services such as Amazon Prime, offering free shipping on most items is almost mandatory. Research shows that 73% of online shoppers say free shipping is what they want to see at checkout. Two out of the three shoppers said they would buy more online if they knew they could return items with free shipping (per Econsultancy.com). Of course, in order to offer these services free, you’ll need to set your pricing and business model appropriately.
Let me give an example of success: A client of ours sold a product for $200. This was a unique product and was their own brand name, so no direct competition on the same SKU. Sales were around $400,000 the first year. Shipping on their product was around $50 a pop. People hated paying $50 and we saw a lot of people leaving their checkout process when choosing to ship. So what did we suggest? Offer free shipping and make the base price around $250. Their sales were in the millions the year after. The illusion of free shipping! This is a great option and works well for many clients. Remember, the higher your product price the more perceived value there is. No one sees value in paying for shipping, but they do when paying for a product.
Whether you offer free shipping site-wide or limit your promotion to specific categories and products, your customers can browse confidently knowing that the prices listed are what they’ll actually pay (plus a little for Uncle Sam, when applicable). Plus, they won’t be caught off guard with additional charges when they’re ready to checkout. From a psychological perspective, you’ll be at an advantage if your visitors are confident that the price they see is an accurate representation of their final cost.
One thing worth mentioning is that your company doesn’t necessarily have to eat the shipping costs, you can simply “hide” your shipping charges by embedding them directly into the price of the product.
Percentage Based Discounts
If brick and mortar storefronts have taught us anything, it’s that everyone loves to buy things that are “on sale,” and formatting your product pages to have a “sale price” can definitely increase conversions. Consider showing two prices for any given product, the “retail” price, and your “sale price.” Experiment with different terminology such as “Suggested Retail” or “MSRP” to see what works best for your store or niche.
Even though percentage-based discounts have become increasingly ubiquitous on eCommerce websites, they are still quite effective. Somehow, the human brain is still more enticed to purchase a product if an artificially inflated original price has been “slashed” down to a lower amount. Experiment with different percentages depending on your profit margins to find the percentage that is most effective for you. Any reputable eCommerce shopping cart should be able to make these adjustments dynamically, either site-wide or specific to a certain category or product. Remember to keep your profit margins in mind when creating these discounts, as increases in revenue are of the most value when you are making a substantial profit on each sale.
Be sure to include the sale price and the original price to show how much a customer is saving.
Buy Something, Get Something Else For Free
Again, everybody loves free stuff. You can set up free product giveaways if a certain product is purchased or if sales of a specific product are dwindling.
If you’d like to increase your average order value, try adding a free product if a certain dollar amount is spent. You’ll be giving your customer the impression that they’re receiving a better value, while psychologically priming them to have a positive opinion of your company after the transaction. At the same time, it will create an incentive for them to spend more money each time they frequent your site. Shopify says the BOGO feature is one of their top performers.
Forever21 often runs a BOGO sale, boosting their conversion rate.
Quantity Discount Sales
Another great way to improve sales and average order value is to offer discounts based on the quantity purchased of a specific product. These discounts can be structured in any number of ways, including a flat rate, a fixed percentage, or a sliding scale.
This can be especially advantageous to eCommerce websites that are looking to sell both to the average consumer as well as distributors and merchants that need to buy in bulk. You can set up your quantity discount structure such that those looking to purchase in bulk do not have to contact you directly to negotiate a price. The more automation your website has in this regard, the more labor hours your company can allot to innovation and growth. If your website doesn’t have this type of capability, talk with a website designer about adding on the functionality.
Offering a quantity discount may encourage a customer to purchase a higher quantity.
Offering Reward Points
Offering your customers rewards points for each dollar spent is a great way to encourage visitors to become loyal, repeat customers. These reward points can be expressed in “points” or “dollar-value,” depending on what you think makes more sense for your target market. Many believe that website visitors are more enticed to spend “50 Example.com Dollars” vs “50 Example.com Reward Points,” so keep that psychology in mind when determining how to name your points system.
Getting creative with the naming of your rewards points system also presents an opportunity to strengthen your brand. For example, “Airplane Ticket Reward Points System” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “Frequent Flyer Miles.”
86% of shoppers said they’ve joined a loyalty program to collect points, so we know customers love to use the feature.
GongShowGear.com has a sophisticated rewards points program to increase customer loyalty.
Contests & Giveaway Promotions
Everyone loves the chance to win a free product, so throw the offer out there if they’ll give you their email address. A giveaway is all about building that email list! Also, you can promote it on social media and ask others to promote the giveaway, too. A contest or giveaway can work really well in conjunction with affiliates. If they’re collecting the emails on their website, be sure you have an agreement for them to share the list with you.
The giveaway below has collected more than 16,000 emails.
Flash Sales / One-Day Sales
Not every sale you run has to run for weeks. Test shorts flash sales and see how they work for your customer base. You can offer these sales only to email subscribers or current customers, or just run the sale on your website for a day or a weekend. Be sure you read the second half of this article around marketing your promotion because marketing a flash sale is very important. You only have a short time to get the sale in front of potential buyers. You’ll definitely want to have a timer running with this one!
Levi’s promotes their flash sale via email marketing.
Free Gifts With Purchase
If you’re looking to one-up a competitor, offer low-ticket items for free with the purchase of a big-ticket item. Often you’ll see accessories added on for free. Everyone loves a deal, even if it’s only a $10-$25 value! This is a simple and effective way to boost your conversion rate and incentivize customers to place their orders now.
BBQ Guys offer free BBQ rubs with the purchase of a grill. A small add-on for a big purchase.
Discount for an Email List Subscription
You’ll see this one on almost every successful eCommerce website. Want that 10% off coupon code or free shipping? Enter your email address and we’ll give it to you! Building your email list is one of the most important aspects of growing your eCommerce sales long-term and “sign up for a discount” is a top performer. It’s simple – if you’re offering a sale, don’t just give the sale away. Trade the promotion for an email address. Even if they don’t purchase today, you’ll have the ability to market future sales to the visitor.
Aviya Mattress offers a $200 off discount code in exchange for your email address.
When To Run eCommerce Sales
While most eCommerce websites are practically always running some sort of special offer, there are certain times when special offers can have an even bigger impact on sales – these are often times when customers are expecting sales (think Black Friday). Running promotions at the right time will have a major impact on how successful they are. In 2020, Cyber Week eCommerce sales were above $270 billion globally and over $60 billion in the U.S.
A few ideas of times to run sales include:
- Weekly / Monthly / Quarterly
- Pre-launch (of a website, of a new product, or anything else applicable)
- Holiday / Seasonal Promotions (Black Friday and Christmas are obvious, but also any holidays or seasons that align with your brand…e.g. if you sell weight-loss products, create a promotion centered around New Year’s resolutions)
- Abandoned Cart – Target abandoned carters via email with special offers to seal the deal.
- Email / Newsletter Subscription Offers – Include special offers and promotions exclusive to those on your email list. Advertise this on your site to encourage newsletter and email list sign-ups!
- Social Media Engagement Incentives (e.g. Like us on Facebook for a 10% coupon)
- First-Time Visitors – Create special offers for those making their first visit to your site.
- Customer Loyalty – Reward repeat customers with special offers.
- Exit Intent – When it looks like a user intends to exit the page, you can create a special pop-up offer to entice them to stay on the site and make a purchase.
We recommend working directly with your eCommerce marketing agency to help implement these strategies on your eCommerce website. You can also combine SEO expertise to drive organic traffic all year round and boost your sale potentials during key times of the year. Furthermore, your eCommerce SEO agency will be able to align its SEO efforts with your eCommerce promotions so that your strategies can work together in harmony.
Effectively Marketing Your Website Sales & Promotions
The success of your sales hinges on customers knowing they exist. So, how do you get the word out? Below we’ll review how to make the most of your promotions and drive eCommerce revenue.
Let’s review the best ways to market your sale.
Drive Traffic With SEO & Paid Search
Close to 50% of all online sales start with a search, meaning your website better be at the top for the keywords related to your products. There are two ways to drive traffic through search engines, ranking organically or through paid search ads. Below we’ve highlighted organic search results vs. paid search results.
Rankings organically is the most cost-effective way of driving traffic to your website because you do not have to pay for every click. It’s important to work with an SEO company (like ourselves) that specializes in eCommerce SEO. By optimizing your landing pages, creating proper content, and increasing your backlinks, you’ll be able to raise your rankings and drive valuable, converting traffic.
Pro Tip: Creating landing pages to rank for long-tail keywords such as your products with words like “Black Friday Sale” before or after them. You’d be surprised by the amount of qualified traffic this can drive. Need a strategy to rank? Just ask us.
Paid search, such as Google Ads, is a great way of driving traffic to specific products, categories, or important landing pages. And best of all? Your ads can be at the top of Google for nearly any keywords related to your business in a matter of hours. Google Ads now even allows you to integrate your promotions into your ads.
To learn more about how paid ads work, read our “How Does PPC Advertising Work?” guide.
Run an Email Marketing Campaign To Promote Your Online Sale
Did you know email marketing is the highest converting marketing channel for eCommerce businesses? A well-run email marketing campaign can completely transform your business, from allowing you to capture business you were once losing to gaining repeat orders on a much more frequent basis.
An example of Best Buy’s holiday email notification.
You can promote your sales using these types of email marketing campaigns:
- Discount Code Offer – Want 10% off your order? Want $100 off? Join our email list! Offering a discount code for signing up is the easiest way to grow your email list. Even if the visitor doesn’t purchase right away, you’ve now got them on your list.
- Drip Campaign – Once you’ve got someone on your list, make sure you’ve set them up on a drip campaign. A drip campaign means a preset number of emails that are sent to a subscriber. For example, you could send 5 emails once someone joins your email list to receive a discount code and they could receive one email a week for 5 weeks. What goes into these emails is very important, so you need to think about your customers buying journey. If the product you sell is a quick decision type order, you may want to make the time between drip emails more frequent. If it’s a long buying cycle, an email a week may do and you may want to add even more emails to the drip, extending the overall cycle.
- Sale Notification – Any time you run a sale, whether for a holiday or a flash sale, send everyone on your list an email. A well-designed sale notification email can really drive conversions! There are even tools to integrate a countdown timer into your emails. These emails are important to create a sense of urgency and get those buyers who have yet to make a decision to pull the trigger. Be sure to send multiple emails when you have a sale. These emails can include one around the sale beginning, one that it’s about to end, and one letting them know the “sale ends today!”.
Implement Sale Banners and Graphics on Your Website
If you’re driving traffic to your website through search marketing, email marketing, or any other channel, be sure to have that sale front-and-center when the visitors arrive. Promote your sale with a homepage banner, graphics, and other mini-banners throughout the website.
Homepage sale banner with countdown timer.
Mini-banner in the checkout to remind customers of the sale, encouraging them to join the email list to receive $200 off and place their order.
Optimize Your Product and Category Pages
If you have a product on sale, be sure to call out the sale on the product page. If you have a whole category of products on sale, make a note of that on the category page and on each individual product page. The goal is the keep the sale in front of the customer. Remember, not every visitor gets to the website in the same way. Some visitors land on a category page, while others may go directly to a product page via a Google search. Wherever they land, be sure your message is there to meet them.
Clear promotion messaging on the product page is a must!
Integrate Side-Wide Notifications
As mentioned above, not everyone arrives on the same page of the website. So, how do you let everyone know a sale is happening? Simple – a site-wide notification. Usually placed in the header of the website, the site-wide notification is on every page of the website for all to see.
Pottery Barn is utilizing multiple site-wide sale/promotion notifications.
Use Email Subscribe Popups
A simple popup offering a discount can go a long way to driving initial sales and building your email list. Based on our experience, around 30% of customers who enter their email for a discount code end up purchasing right away, while others may purchase down the road when receiving ongoing promotional emails. Be sure to update your popup each time to match the sale you have active on the website.
Canvas By Numbers offering 10% off if you enter your email address.
Create a Timer to Countdown to When Your Sale Ends
There’s no better way to create a sense of urgency than showing your sale is ending soon. What better way than a countdown timer? We have seen this work for flash sales, weekend sales, and major holiday sales.
One suggestion: if you have a sale that’s running for two weeks, don’t have the timer running the whole time. Only run the timer when the sale is getting towards the end, such as the last 5 days.
Launch Remarketing Ads for Each Sale
Every eCommerce website should have a remarketing ads campaign active. If you don’t, using Google Ads as your remarketing platform is the best way to get started. What’s remarketing? Remarketing is showing ads on other websites to customers that visited certain pages on your website. For example, you could show a generic ad to everyone who visited your website and specific ads to visitors who looked at a specific product. And best of all, you only pay if they click the ad and come back to your website. If you’re running a promotion it’s important to create unique remarketing ads each time. These ads will stand out and work best to bring back customers who may be waiting for a sale to make their purchase.
Be sure to create remarketing ads for all of the most popular ad sizes. These include 300 x 250, 336 x 280, 728 x 90, 300 x 600, 320 x 100 and more.
Use Social Media to Get the Word Out
It’s simple to create a post promoting your sale on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media platforms you use. You can also schedule these posts using automation tools such as Hootsuite. If you really want to take social media promotion to the next level, look to have influencers post about your sale. Finding the right influencers can be tricky, but try simply messaging some of the top social media users related to your industry. You’d be surprised how many respond (after all, it is their business!). There will be a charge for their post which can range from free products to thousands of dollars per post depending on how many followers they have.
Have Affiliates Promote Your Sale
If you’re not running an affiliate campaign, you should be. Affiliates can drive a huge amount of sales to your website by promoting your products on their site. To get started you can use a bunch of different affiliate platforms, but we recommend ShareASale to get started. Once you’re set up you’ll need to gain affiliates – you can read some tips on OSI Affiliate. Assuming you have affiliates, it’s important to let them know each time you have a sale. They’ll update their website to promote your sale and often even include you in an email blast they do to their email list. Remember, their goal is to sell products and make a commission. If your sale will help them sell more, they’re all for it! Through ShareASale and other platforms, there is messaging functionality to email all of your affiliates at once, but I recommend directly emailing your top affiliates directly as well. Be sure to give all of the sale details, including dates, products on sale, and active discount codes. You can also create unique discount codes for top-performing affiliates.
ECOMMERCE PROMOTION FAQ's
Should I run multiple eCommerce promotions or sales at one time?
Often running multiple promotions at one time can make the shopping experience confusing for the customer. We recommend running one sale at a time, making it very clear to the store visitor what offer is available. If you have a wide range of products or product lines, running a separate promotion on a per-category basis may be necessary.
How do I boost my conversion rate when running a promotion?
Our number one tip to make your online sales more effective is to use a countdown timer. This means you visitors (hopefully becoming customers!) will know how long the sale lasts, realize it will end soon, and make the decision to purchase. We’ve seen conversion rates more than double when a countdown timer is live during a promotion.
How do I tell potential customers about my online sale?
If potential customers don’t know about your sale, running a sale doesn’t do much good. You’ll need to drive visitors to your website using social media, SEO, paid search, and email marketing to name a few. The more qualified website traffic you can send to your site the better performance you’ll see from your promotion.