20+ Outstanding Sales Promotion Examples for Ecommerce
2021 was the defining year for ecommerce. The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic combined with the decline in retail sales forced ecommerce brands to find more innovative ways to interact with customers. Many of the consumer trends accelerated by the pandemic (importance of personalization, mobile-first experiences, and new AR technologies) will continue to define the ecommerce promotion marketing strategies for years to come.
“In 2021, e-commerce sales amounted to $4.9 trillion worldwide, an increase from $4.2 trillion in 2020.” - Statista
In the new reality, ecommerce businesses need to embrace new ways of engaging customers with digital promotions and promotion marketing to cater to the modern ecommerce consumer. Luckily it’s never been easier to set up promotional campaigns and customize them with all sorts of interesting features.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have accelerated the shift away from traditional shopping to ecommerce by approximately five years.” – IBM
With this guide, I would like to give you over 20 examples and ideas for discounts and promotions perfect for ecommerce.
- CSR (corporate social responsibility) & sustainability sales promotions
- Tripwire & splinter promotions
- Welcome discounts
- Free shipping offers
- Influencer & affiliate campaigns
- BOGO & product bundling
- Happy hour & flash promotions
- Gated discount
- Behavior-based promotions
- Seasonal campaigns
- Product-based deals
- Geofencing marketing
- Abandoned cart incentives
- Re-engagement discounts
- Upgrade & refill promotions
- Gift cards
- Deal of the day & recurring sales
- Return discounts
- Giveaways & gamified contests
- Referral programs
- Feedback & UGC deals
What is an ecommerce sales promotion?
Ecommerce sales promotions are sales and discounts that are used to attract new customers, increase conversions, and ultimately drive sales. There is one compelling reason why brands use discounts and promotions in their ecommerce strategy – they work. But, the results are not guaranteed. Your sales promotions’ success heavily depends on the targeting, terms and conditions, and the incentive itself. If we drill down any promotional offer, the formula is the same:
The customer does X to receive Y.
To ensure your ecommerce marketing strategy succeeds, you need to develop an “X” that will deliver desired business results and a “Y” that is attractive enough to elicit a response. But to do so, you will need plenty of data and a flexible ecommerce promotion engine that will allow you to pivot with your ecommerce strategy and promotion ideas on a daily basis.
Once you have the right tools in place, you should start thinking about the types of sales promotion campaigns for your online store. There are two main categories of sales promotions – they can be either proactive or reactive.
- Proactive promotions help ecommerce businesses expand the target market, meet sales goals or improve customer experience.
- Reactive promotions act as a response to a market situation, inventory levels, or a competitor’s offer.
To get you started, here are my top 20 sales promotion ideas for ecommerce perfect for each step of the customer journey.
Build awareness around your ecommerce brand
1. Sustainability & CSR sales promotions
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is a total of marketing efforts aimed at supporting charities, minorities, or climate. CSR-inspired promotion marketing brings plenty of benefits, such as positive media coverage or bigger social trust. But, how are promo campaigns related to CSR? By offering discounts you may encourage your audience to act in a certain way. For example, you may run a promotion where a chunk of sales generated in a specific time goes to a select charity. Or, opt out of the Black Friday sales and donate to charity.
This is what Allbirds, footwear ecommerce brand, did with their Black Friday campaigns by increasing all prices by $1 and adding $1 extra dollar to each purchase, and donating the funds collected to the Fridays for Future charity.
2. Tripwire & splinter sales promotions
Have you ever entered an ecommerce store and seen a discount that’s just too good to be true? Most likely it was a tripwire promotion which sole purpose is to convert a potential customer as quickly as possible. This type of ecommerce marketing strategy brings to life the golden rule of marketing psychology – once a customer does something for you, he/she will be more likely to do something bigger in the future).
An example of an ecommerce tripwire deal is Pomelo Fashion which offered an astounding -15% off the first order with no restrictions.
Similar to tripwire deals, splinter promotions are also used for boosting conversions. If you are selling products that can be split into smaller components, you can offer a part of the product at a lower price to let customers get to know your product better before committing to purchasing the complete product.
3. Welcome promotions
First-order discounts are a terrific way to increase your ecommerce conversion rates. You can use a welcome promotion to encourage customers to sign up for your monthly newsletter, download your app, or share personal details with you, which is especially handy given the upcoming changes to the third-party cookies. Here is another example of Pomelo Fashion offering a -35% discount if users download their app.
4. Free shipping offers
Another ecommerce promotion strategy aimed at increasing conversions is free or discounted shipping. By offering free shipping, you might get your customers to pay more than both of you expect or prevent them from dropping the order – as unexpected delivery fees are the primary reason behind abandoned orders.
You should always use free shipping in conjunction with a minimum purchase requirement to increase your average order value and prevent burning your margins. This is what Meow Meow Tweet did with its free shipping promotion by limiting its availability to orders above $40.
5. Influencer discounts & affiliate promotions
As reported by YouGov, around 50% of Gen Z shoppers make an incentivized purchase triggered by influencer endorsement. Given the changes in the privacy law and boost in social commerce, we’re most likely going to experience the boom of influencer marketing 2.0.
To use this trend to your advantage, you can share unique codes with influencers from your niche – by attributing a code to a particular influencer you can track how many transactions the influencer brought. SeatGeek frequently partners up with YouTube creators to promote their brand to new audiences.
By partnering up with businesses with a similar offer, you get new customers from your partner’s network. Remember to check how much sales your partners generate and stop offering discounts or tweak the discount scheme for those partners who do not bring enough closed sales for your ecommerce store.
Cultivate interest and increase AOV for your ecommerce
6. BOGO & bundling promotions
A free product is a fantastic way to provide additional value. If used strategically, it can also increase the AOV (average order size) and help you get rid of products that do not sell well on their own. BOGO promotions are often used in ecommerce for improved inventory management, allowing you to up- or cross-sell products. Remember to create product bundles that make sense to customers. This way, you can move surplus products or increase sales of less desirable items. Shein, a fashion ecommerce, uses bundling to incentivize users to purchase more items.
In your ecommerce, you can also run “Buy More, Save More” offers where customers get a higher discount once they meet the minimum order volume, effectively increasing the AOV. Another popular type of this promotion is “Buy X, Get Y” where the purchase of a specific item is incentivized by a freebie.
7. Happy hours & flash sales promotions
Happy hour promotions help you turn off-peak hours or seasons into assets and create additional profits at usually-low times. Think of a swimwear ecommerce offering discounts during winter.
On the same note, flash sales are time-limited promotions that evoke urgency and FOMO. They are also fantastic for attracting new customers, directly driving demand. Flash sales tend to translate into an increase in sales of other products available in the online store. On the downside, flash sales can quickly get hijacked. To avoid a flash promotion going wild, you can limit the promotion availability to specific locations, customer groups, or order sizes. You can also limit the sale to “while stocks last” or only first X customers. This is what Bath & Body Works did, making the offer seem so attractive that they needed to impose rigid limits to prevent people from using it.
8. Gated promotions
Gated promotions are personalized offers that target select social groups or professions. In the cookie-less world, gated offers can help you convince customers to self-identify to claim the offer. This way you get a solid basis for future segmentation. Targeting discounts to groups such as essential workers or medical staff (popular during the COVID-19 pandemic) can also boost your ecommerce CSR efforts and make your brand narrative more convincing.
9. Behavior-based discounts
There is plenty of space for creativity in behavior promotions, especially in the ecommerce context. You can create exit-intent pop-up offers if the customer hovers over their browser’s tab bar or display a special discount if the customer searches for a specific category. Behavior promotions are great for ecommerce as the digital shopping journey can be meticulously tracked. It has a higher conversion rate than a general promotion because it targets a specific customer who already has a shopping intent, taking into account their current goals.
10. Seasonal & end-of-season promotions
A seasonal promotion is any type of promotional activity inspired by holidays, celebrations, and seasons. The most popular ones include Christmas, Black Friday, or Back-to-School promotions. Seasonal promotions offer a huge advantage over regular ecommerce promotion marketing. Seasons or events are already on your customers’ minds so your offer seems less infringing and annoying. Zaful, a swimwear ecommerce, used a new calendar season as an excuse to run a clearance sale.
11. Product-based promotions
Your ecommerce might have felt the recent shockwave of supply chain crunch. You may use a range of inventory-based reactive promotions, such as back-in-stock offers, product launch discounts, or incentives for choosing a later shipping date. Product-based promotions are the standard offer of almost all ecommerce businesses as they help to rotate inventory effectively and direct customers’ attention to products that you need to sell out quickly. To enhance personalization, Birchbox ran a wishlist-items promotion.
12. Geofencing promotions
Thanks to geofencing technology, your ecommerce may connect with customers as they enter or leave a designated geographic area or target specific locations with discounts. Geofencing marketing is usually used by physical retailers, however, your online store may also use it to your advantage. For instance, if your competitor has a physical store you may run a geoconquesting campaign by sending text messages to customers who are within a certain radius away from your competitor. Or you may target specific locations with bad weather conditions to encourage them to shop with you today online.
Keep the flame alive and retain customers
13. Abandoned cart promotions
With more than 60% of carts abandoned, abandoned order promotions have become the perfect way to nudge the customers along the sales funnel. You can run this ecommerce promotion as a coupon campaign (where you send unique codes directly to shoppers) or an auto-applied discount – for instance, include a personalized link in the email that leads customers straight back to the checkout with the discount already applied.
14. Re-engagement promotions
Retention is key for maintaining long-term ecommerce profitability. That’s why reactivation promotions are so popular in digital commerce. To incentivize dormant customers, you can send them a personalized email message or a push notification with a discount on their preferred category or wishlist items. You can also add a short survey to ask customers directly how you can do better in the future.
15. Upgrade & refill promotions
If your products can be upgraded or refilled, you should offer this service at a discounted price – especially to your most valued customers. Another example of this ecommerce promotion strategy is a frequent shopper discount, where customers who meet certain criteria (e.g., high CLV or a minimum number of orders) get an automatic discount on all orders they place with you.
16. Gift cards
Cultivating positive brand associations doesn’t end with recurring discounts. Small gestures, such as birthday gift or their first-purchase anniversary are always nice. Gift cards are the best incentive here as customers are free to choose their preferred gift and they are going to spend the credits in your ecommerce store – a win-win.
17. Deal of the day & recurring promotions
Surprise ecommerce promotions certainly have their appeal, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a promotional calendar at hand. By having a clear promotion schedule you make sure that customers stick with you instead of going to the competition. But, be careful here – this ecommerce strategy may attract the wrong crowd, so customers who are only interested in getting a better deal. That’s why you should add some basic redemption limits here, such as minimum order volume, or target only specific segments (e.g., exclude first-time buyers).
18. Pain points & returns promotions
Sometimes things can go south, but with a compelling ecommerce promo campaign, you can quickly fix bad impressions and turn the frowns upside down. Sorry coupons are fantastic for improving customer retention and can effectively prevent churn. You can also reward customers for not filing complaints or sending returns by properly segmenting them.
Boost advocacy in customers
19. Giveaways & contests for ecommerce
Giveaways are a simple way to increase customer engagement. You can make them more complex and use dedicated giveaway software, or keep things simple and run a contest on your social media channels. This ecommerce tactic is not strictly sales-oriented. You can use it to generate UGC, reviews, or boost your word-of-mouth marketing by running a contest where participants need to refer your brand to a friend.
Ecommerce promotion gamification doesn’t end with contests. You can run a spin-a-wheel campaign on your ecommerce site where customers click to spin-a-wheel promo campaign where customers can win discounts or freebies. You can also offer mystery deals such as scratch cards or an online treasure hunt where you hide discount codes around your ecommerce site.
20. Referral programs
Despite recent market shakeups, referral marketing is still one of the best ways to acquire new customers. But, customer advocacy often isn’t free. Of all of your customers who claim that they would recommend your services, only a handful would actually do it. Unless you make them feel more motivated by offering a gift card, voucher, or a free product. You can also get more creative with rewards (which doesn't mean they need to be expensive). For example, fashion ecommerce PrettyLittleThing offers a giveaway entry for a referral.
21. Feedback & UGC deals
A great ecommerce business is built on social trust. And there is no better way to build it than with a splash of positive reviews, testimonials, and UGC (user-generated content). Don’t hesitate to incentivize customers to leave reviews or send photos with your products.
With this ready-to-go list of ecommerce promotions, you are more than ready to increase your online sales.
Voucherify promotion engine for your ecommerce store
Voucherify was built as an answer to the limited functionality of most promotion software available to ecommerce clients that can barely meet the needs of scaling ecommerce brands. Our ecommerce promotion engine helps you build the most sophisticated campaigns without additional development resources. Voucherify provides a single holistic solution for coupons, bundling, discounts, loyalty, and referrals, with features that allow you to fully customize and scale easily to meet any business requirements.
Run jaw-dropping e-commerce promotions with Voucherify