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30+ Sales Promotion Examples and Ideas That You Can Steal

Jagoda Dworniczak
Jagoda Dworniczak
August 6, 2021
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30+ Sales Promotion Examples and Ideas That You Can Steal

The power of sales promotions and promo campaigns lies in accompanied incentives. We want to introduce the most popular of these, like coupons, gift cards, discounts or free products. With the appropriate infrastructure, you can customize each of them to fit a concept of sales promotion according to established business goals and drive satisfactory ROI.

#1 Sales Promotion – Coupons

The first promotion example are, unsurprisingly, coupons. The ubiquity of coupons in sales promotions comes from their versatility and the possibility of multi-level customization. With a well-planned coupon campaign you can:

  • Attract new customers and leverage local markets.
  • Maximize profitability (e.g., cross and up-selling, geo-fencing).
  • Strengthen relationships and build a regular audience.
  • Track customers and find behavioral patterns.

Equipped with QR codes and supported by modern software, personalized coupons are more accessible than ever. For brands, it’s a chance to extend their reach via multiple global channels. For consumers, it brings convenience and omnichannel experience regardless of time and place.

Let's explore the basic features which you can customize with a modern sales promotion infrastructure:

  • Each coupon has a code – it can be generic, multi-use or unique, a one-off attached to a particular customer. Standalone codes are easy to deploy and maintain, very often used in social campaigns or short-time sales promotions like flash-sales. Unique codes require infrastructure to generate unique sequences and gather their data. They can track clients to define promotion effectiveness in different customer segments. They also reduce fraud and enable you to run A/B tests.
  • Type of discount – such as percentage, amount, unit, or free shipping.
  • Promotion time frame – by using expiry dates, your sales promotion gains a sense of urgency which increases customer engagement.
  • Redemption rules – like a limit on code use per customer, per day, per order or the total number of code redemptions.
  • Custom limits and rules – coupons may be equipped with many rules defining buying circumstances that need to be met to apply a discount. The only limit that restricts ideas for promotion rules are the capabilities of your coupon infrastructure. For example, you can add product-specific limits, particular customer segments, budget-based rules, limits based on the price of items in a cart, rules defining required order history, and so on.
  • E-coupons – can get to customers in personalized messages via many delivery channels. Modern sales promotion infrastructure makes it easy to connect coupons with your external toolkit, e.g., emails, SMS or live chat providers.

If you want to start from basics, here is the ultimate coupon strategy guide.

#2 Sales Promotion – Gift cards

Gift cards are the next great idea for a sale promotion in your e-commerce. Popular closed-loop cards are a chance for small companies to compete with global giants. They attract customers you wouldn't have acquired otherwise and bring profits even when remaining unused. Digging into the stats, we found two significant clues:

  • When more than 50% of gift cards owners spend more than the loaded balance, the effort put into personalization to deliver more relevant offers increases average overspend. 

  • The growing popularity of digital gift cards causes that mobile technologies should be a priority.


What decides the success of digital gift cards? Supported by marketing automation, they retain the personal character of traditional gifts, combined with the convenience of mobile technologies:

  • Unique codes enable retailers to track behavior and prompt more relevant offers
.
  • Personal details create a sense of an individual, tailor-made gift
.
  • Balance is easy to utilize at any time providing a seamless journey through a sales funnel
.
  • Retailers can reach buyers via many local and global channels (email, blog, landing page, social media)
.
  • QR codes make gifts go along with mobile technologies
.
  • Digitization eliminated the chances of losing the card and minimized the cost of production

Gift cards carry predefined balances to be spent by a customer. They are always equipped with unique codes. Besides a predefined value and obligatory one-off code, gift cards have the same attributes as coupons and can also be customized on many levels.

#3 Sales Promotion – Auto-applied discounts

Auto-applied discounts rank third on our list of top sales promotion examples. Cart-level discounts tempt customers with potential savings available at their fingertips. These sales promotions drive customers most effectively into spontaneous buying decisions. While many of them add more to their cart to get the discount, the average order volume is growing. Cart-level discounts are also perfect for flash sales and A/B tests. Without much effort, you can define clues for future campaigns and promotional incentives.

Sales promotions with auto-applied discounts are typical for online stores. Retailers define a cart structure which applies for a discount. Each cart is validated automatically by a system, and if promotion rules are met, a discount is added at the checkout without any code or additional steps. Such promotions enable you to deploy many diversified scenarios and cart-level rules at the same time. You can test how your customers respond to particular offers and enlarge the sales promotions which perform the best.

#4 Sales Promotion – Free products

Our next promo inspiration is offering free products or services. From a technical point of view, adding free items to a cart can be managed with 100% discounts or by using auto-applied actions served by your system. Besides adding free items to a cart, you can send a message with a code via email, SMS or another channel to notify the customer about the free gift they can get with the attached code.

Now, when you know what promotional incentives and sales promotions you can use and how you can customize them to best fit your strategy, we can go to the library of sales promotion ideas with real examples from B2B and B2C businesses.

More sales promotion ideas & examples

Flash sales

Flash sales are dynamic promotions wrapped in a short time window (for example – happy hours). Expiration dates in such campaigns drive traffic and cut customers' hesitations. Research claims that people find sales promotions much more attractive if limited in time. As you can see in the screen, Glamour magazine has run a typical flash sale with exclusive offers available for 12 hours only. That's what I call urgency at its best.

Glamour flash sale. Example 5th of sales promotion
Flash sale by Glamour

Happy Hours campaigns

Happy hours promotion is a limited-time discount usually in the restaurant industry, often on drinks and beverages. You can launch, for example, a happy hours promotion at your bar offering 40% off all beverages and drinks from 5 PM to 6 PM Monday to Friday with a discount code “HAPPYHOURS.” Read our blog post about Happy Hours promotion ideas to find more inspirations.

BOGO promotions

Buy one and get one free (BOGO promotion) is a popular type of sales promotion which can help you to promote a new product or clear your stores at the end of the season. Moreover, if you combine such campaigns with time limits like PizzaHut, you can increase traffic in the quietest time of a week/season. This kind of offer is based on the power of the word "free" which usually sounds very convincing in a consumer’s ears.

BOGO promotions are also an excellent way to boost your cross-selling and up-selling incentives or to move products that do not sell well on their own.

‍Buy one and get one free by PizzaHut. Sales promotion example 6th
Buy one and get one free by PizzaHut

Product-based promotions

This kind of campaign enables you to cross-sell and up-sell your inventory with coupons. They also help when some products get stuck in your inventory or when you introduce new products. Here are a couple of examples of product-specific coupon campaigns:

  • When a customer purchases an item for the first time, send a 10% off coupon to the customer for a next product if she/he leaves a review.
  • Offer a $15 off coupon if a customer buys at least three products.
  • Make a coupon with a $10 discount available if the price of any item in the cart is more than $100.
  • If a customer buys one product from a category, send an email with a coupon for another one 20% off.
  • Offer an additional 20% off coupon for specific items if a customer buys anything from the same category within the next two weeks.
  • Offer a $5 gift card if a customer purchased at least two items this month (spent a min. of $50).
  • Make a coupon for a more expensive variant of a product available at the price of a cheaper variant if the order value is more than $100.
Product-based sale from Chubbies

Related product discount

You can personalize your promo campaign by offering a discount based on  previously purchased products. For example, if a customer purchased any item from the baby category, you can send them a personalized discount coupon for 10% off the baby category on their next purchase. 

Event-based promotions

You can distribute your discount vouchers based on events (for example, customer interactions). For example, you can send unique coupons if:

  • A customer pays his first order.
  • A customer canceled his order.
  • A customer’s profile was updated.
  • A customer performs another custom event.

Free shipping promotions

Free shipping campaign similarly to the previous promotion idea, offers something for free. Professor Alex DePaoli finds that “The more you can claim something is a freebie, the more motivated your customers will be to get it.”

Free shipping is usually available from a set minimum order amount, however, sometimes stores decide on short time events with free shipping on everything. For example, free shipping on all orders made within the next 6 hours (flash-sale).

Free shipping campaign. Sales promotion example 7th
Free shipping flash-sale at Macy’s

Birthday promotions

Birthday campaigns are an example of a sales promotion aimed at awakening customer loyalty. Personalized campaigns are extremely important for building a loyal audience, ready to recommend your services and keep coming back with new orders.You can leverage live chat or emails to personalize messages with birthday incentives such as a coupon codes with an exclusive discount or a gift card with an amount to spend in your store.

Live chat is what the majority of modern consumers prefer to use when contacting with your business, don't waste its potential and check out more ideas for live chat promotions.

Retention-focused campaigns

You can use coupons and other promotion types to incentivize customers to stay with you for longer. For example, if you have a subscription-based business, you could for example implement a discount of 1% for each 1 month of active, uncancelled subscription on the monthly cost of subscription, up to 20% of discount for the most loyal customers.

Referral programs and word-of-mouth promotions

Referral programs are great sales promotion idea for taking advantage of the power of recommendation. No matter if you aim at your business partners or end customers, both will be more encouraged to spread word-of-mouth if provided with a vision of attractive rewards.

What decides the success of a referral program? In short, reward. The rewards increase the chances of word-of-mouth, priceless in acquiring new customers. Don’t know what reward to choose? Experiment! Launch a referral program with multi-level reward schema to:

  • Reward customers according to their engagement
.
  • Test which rewards works best in particular customer segments
.

Clear and concise rules and a catchy idea can win a huge referral audience.

Referral Program. Sales promotion 9
Source: FriendBuy

From all of your customers who claim that they would recommend your services to their friends, only a few will actually do it. Unless you make them feel more motivated by offering a gift card, voucher or free product. Don’t hesitate to look for attractive rewards outside your inventory. If you provide customers with items needed only once in a while, a great incentive may be a simple gift of an external provider. Maybe a Starbucks coffee in exchange for each referred customer?

Referral programs can also use discount coupons as a reward. Here are some examples: 

  • Referral program that gives $10 off discount coupon to both referrer and referee. 
  • Referral program that gives 10% off the next purchase for the referrer if their referred friends completes a purchase. 
  • Referral program that gives 5%, 10% and 15% off discount vouchers for the referrer if they successfully recommend one, two or three friends. 

If you want to see how top players design their referral program customer journey, go here.

Loyalty programs

We don’t have to repeat how important loyalty programs are in sales strategies. When you build your loyalty program strategy keep in mind that acquiring a new customer is 7 times more expensive than convincing an existing client to re-purchase. A good loyalty program software is an investment that comes back.

Loyalty Program - Sales Promotion example
Source: Esther & Co. VIP

Loyalty programs with multi-level structures have a greater chance of keeping customers interested. A very effective method of increasing engagement is by adding a Premium group to the top of the loyalty layers. This helps you to distinguish the most valuable customers and primarily, gives a clear goal to all people who participate.

You can use discount coupons as a loyalty program reward. For example:

  • You can load 10 points on a customer's loyalty card for each item bought. Then, you can let them exchange 1000 points for a 10% off coupon.
  • You can give a 5$ off discount coupon to the loyalty program participants who write a review of your product on your website (without the need to exchange any points for the discount).

You can start by reading our resources to find out how to design your loyalty program strategy and focus more effort on the most beneficial customers:

Reengagement sales promotions

Sometimes you need to incentivize dormant customers, and there is no better way to do it than with a fun coupon campaign with automatic reminders running for a short period of time. If your customer didn’t use your app or haven't made an order in quite some time, send them a 10% discount for a new product line to give them an extra push. There are plenty of reasons why your customers may not use their coupons right away. And it doesn’t have to mean a poor offer. Coupon reminders can increase the chance of your emails standing out from the crowd. Unlike typical follow-up messages, those with coupons included carry tangible value for consumers.

Hello Fresh reengagement email promotion copy
Re-engagement campaign from HelloFresh

Go here to see our analysis of re-engagement promo campaigns run by industry leaders.

Gamified promotions

You can gamify your promotions by setting some conditions on actions the customer has to do to “earn” the coupon. You can also offer a “mystery coupon” to add some thrill into your campaigns. For example: 

  • “Visit us three times this week to buy at least one item and get your surprise coupon.”
  • “Answer a simple question about our brand, share it on social media, and win a reward!” The reward can be a gift card, which (properly designed) looks like something special and unique.

Gamification in promotions builds unique customer experiences that increase engagement, loyalty, and retention. Read our blog post to find 10 more examples of gamified promotions you can use in your strategy

Mystery coupons 

To make customers more interested in your promotions, you can offer mystery coupons. Launch a coupon campaign with a couple of coupon variations and do not tell your customers what they got. They will have to add the coupon to their basket to see what’s in there. Then, you have them one step closer to completing an order!

Partnership coupons 

You can offer a discount code for your partner’s customers and vice versa. For example, you can offer 10% off discount vouchers for customers of your partner. Your partner can place this coupon in their accounts or have it distributed via email. 

Feedback campaigns 

You can incentivize responses to surveys, filling out the profiles or leaving feedback or review by giving a discount coupon for those who do it. For example, offer a $5 discount coupon for filling out surveys. 

Purchase frequency coupons

You can launch a coupon campaign for the customers who have purchased a certain amount of times from you, to foster further purchases and help them build a habit of purchasing from you.

  • Send 10% off coupon if a customer placed two orders this month.
  • Send a 25% off coupon if a customer placed four orders this month.
  • Send a $30 gift card if a customer already placed at least six orders.

Free samples sales promotions

A promo campaigns with free samples for new customers is a great idea that may be more beneficial than you probably think. The research shows that endowing an unexpected gift and simple gestures towards clients significantly influence buying decisions. It’s called the reciprocity effect which can be another effective tool to increase the average spent amount.

The key is to offer a free product, sample or discount before a customer purchases; reciprocity makes your potential buyers feel obliged to repay and order or sometimes to order more than they intended at the beginning.

L'Oreal Free Samples promo campaign
Free sample offer from L’Oreal

Purchase history-based coupon campaigns

You can segment customers based on the revenue they bring and create exclusive discounts or gift cards for those who bring the highest profits, according to their purchase history. Remember to emphasize the individual character of the discount, to make your customers feel special. For example, add a note to the message, “Only for our VIP customers.”

Acquisition coupon campaigns

You can launch coupon campaigns with acquisition goals by, for example, targeting only new customers or encouraging current customers to recommend or mention your company to their friends. Example campaigns: 

  • Coupon code with 30% discount for all customers who place their first order today.
  • 20% coupon code for regular customers and an additional $5 discount if they share on social media.

Social media sales promotions

Social media promotions are a variation of a standard referral program: this goes to show how you can leverage social media to build branding image. Social shares make your company visible for customers outside your regular audience. It’s a chance for new acquisitions and an increase in brand awareness. Like we said while talking about referral programs, even satisfied customers need additional motivation to share your message across their social and real connections. Therefore make sure, to offer a valuable rewards for tagging your brand name on a photo or leaving a positive review.

You can also reward your customers for social media activity and interacting with your brand. For example: 

  • Give a 5% off coupon if a customer leaves a review on your social profile.
  • Give a 10% off coupon if a customer adds a photo with your product and tags your store.
  • Give a 15% off voucher if a customer shares your post on their social profile.

Local events marketing campaigns

While trying to cover a particular area with your services, you need to learn about the local audience and their habits. In the long run, global success depends on how well you can fit your sales strategy and promotional marketing to local markets. The European giant, Zalando, says that “every market needs a different strategy”. Sales promotions with local events are a chance for small companies to inscribe into local societies and compete with global market leaders.

McDonald's Local events
McDonald’s, besides its well-known menu, offers meals which remind of local specialties.

Location-based campaigns

You can launch a location-based campaign that targets only customers within a specified location, for example: 

  • 20% off coupon if a customer’s delivery address is Porto.
  • 10% off coupon for a next purchase if a customer visited the new store in Berlin.

Read our blog post about geolocalization-based promotion ideas to find more inspirations. 

Weather-based promotions 

It is scientifically proven that customers tend to shop less when the weather is worse. You can counteract it by launching promotions during bad weather days. Read more about it in our guide on how to build a weather-based coupon promotion.

Social contests promotions

Social contests with a clever idea on top of a concept can be a great sales promotion example. Looking for inspiration, it's worth seeing examples run by market-leading giants like Puma or Dove. Contests are the best when based on things that connect your clients such as common passions or hobbies. For example, fitness & sports companies can challenge their customers with virtual runs and running shoes for winners.

Dove Social Contest Sales Promotion example
Dove regularly runs social campaigns to share their values and the unique stories of customers.

Affiliate or Influencer campaigns using coupons

You can launch influencer or affiliate campaigns using discount codes. You can, for example, set a code for each influencer or affiliate that they can share with their public that gives 5% off for the new customers who use it. Then, you can count the number of customers acquired with that code and compensate your influencers or affiliates for the brought traffic accordingly. 

Gated promotions

You can create a coupon campaign only for a specific customer group, for example only for NHS workers. For instance, offer a free coffee for NHS workers only if they purchase any food item in your cafe.

Abandoned cart promotions

With more than 60% of carts abandoned, discounts have become the perfect way to nudge the customers along the sales funnel. From a technical point of view, you need a dynamic segment based on specific customer behavior – cart abandonment. Track the event, segment the customers accordingly, and set up an automatic distribution of coupon codes for customers who left your store without finishing the purchase.

Research says that the abandoned cart offers recover between 3% and 11% of orders. Instant messages with a 5% or 10% discount are usually enough to note a significant uplift in recovery rates.

Go here to see our analysis of great cart abanoned campaigns.

Frequent customer promotions

The frequent customer program is a variation of loyalty program that rewards customers for their loyalty. As a frequent customer, your audience can earn free credits for the making X number of orders, leaving a positive review or referring your company to family and friends. Customers can later use these credits to get discounts, charge gift cards for free or get exclusive, complimentary services such as free dinner at selected restaurant. You can divide the program into different tiers with different perks – the more points, the higher the level.

This type of sales promotion is often used by airlines. We wrote a dedicated post about it here.

Alaska Airlines

Sign-up promotions

This kind of sales promotion can be tricky. On the one hand, it is a very common and effective tactic to enlarge a number of new acquisitions and a list of your subscribers. On the other hand, how can you know what offer will work for your potential buyers if you don’t know them yet? In the case of a sign-up promotion, we recommend starting by checking the performance of different discount variants before you decide which one should be your standard sign-up offer.

Sign-up Discounts Sales Promotion Examples
‍Sign up offer from Zalando.co.uk

Buy and donate promotions

There is much more behind such campaigns than just a willingness to make a good change. Research shows clearly that people are more loyal and bound to companies with high social responsibility. After all, “91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one that supports a good cause, given similar price and quality.” This kind of sales promotion creates cause marketing. You can read our recent article to get some inspiration and leverage cause marketing no matter the size and scale of your business.

Buy&Donate Sales Promotion Example

Give a temporary free balance to spend

This is another example of psychological marketing. Adding a temporary, free balance drives the customer into Loss Aversion behavior. People endowed with unexpected gains usually try very hard not to lose them. In the case of a sales promotion, this means they are very likely to make a purchase due to saving the balance for themselves before it’s gone. This kind of sales promotion pairs well with gift cards.

If you’d like to explore more from psychological marketing strategies, go here

Pain points sales promotions ideas

Discounts, gift cards or coupons can say more than a simple "we're sorry" to unsatisfied customers. Mistakes happen everywhere, and so, each company sooner or later needs to schedule an “emergency strategy” to tackle such fires. It's good to have a promotion ready to be triggered every time your team lets down a customer. The best effect is achieved if you deliver a discount in a personalized message showing your care and individual approach (for example via live chat or email).

Seasonal promotions

Keep an eye on special days like national holidays to send wishes with an exclusive discount. For example:

  • Offer a 20% discount on Black Friday.
  • Share a $20 gift card for specific items a week or two before the important day.

Read our blog post about seasonal promotion ideas to find more inspirations.

Summer promotion from Timberland

Summary

Each sales promotion idea you decide to use needs to be enrolled on a micro-scale first. Not every discount or buying scenario will fit your audience. Ultimately, the way you design promotions should reflect the preferences of your audience. Remember never to give up tests. A successful sales promotion strategy is a combination of clever ideas, endless testing, efficient customer tracking, and constant adjustments to the target. We hope that this list of sales promotions examples and inspiration will help you find an appropriate strategy suited to your business.

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