Sales promotion examples: special offers, coupons, gift cards, auto-applied basket-level discounts, free samples and products, flash sales, BOGO, referral and loyalty programs.
Sales promotion tools
The power of promotion 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 goals.
The ubiquity of coupons in sales promotions comes from their versatility and the possibility of multi-level customization. Let's explore the basic features which you can customize with a modern 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 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 or unit
- Promotion time frame. By using expiry dates, your 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 forth.
- E-coupons can get to customers in personalized messages via many delivery channels. Modern infrastructure makes it easy to connect coupons with your external toolkit, e.g. emails, SMS or live chat providers. Learn how to distribute personalized unique codes through email campaign >>>
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. Learn about 8 traits of a good gift card strategy >>>
Sales promotions with auto-applied discounts are typical for online stores (cart-level promotions). 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. Learn more about cart-level discounts >>>
Free samples and products
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 incentives 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.
Launch contextual coupon, referral, discount, and loyalty campaigns faster
Sales promotion ideas
Flash-sales are dynamic promotions wrapped in a short time window (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 picture, Glamour magazine has run a typical flash-sale with exclusive offers available through 12h only.
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.
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).
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 code 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 contact with your business, don't waste its potential and check out more ideas for live chat promotions.
Referral programs take 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.
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?
If you want to know more about referral programs, learn how to make a double-sided referral program with Voucherify >>>
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 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 start by reading our resources to find out how to design your loyalty program strategy and focus more effort on the most beneficial customers.
Free samples for new customers is a tactic that may be more beneficial than you probably think. The research shows that endowing an unexpected gift and simple gestures towards clients influence their buying decisions significantly. 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.
Share and get free product
A variation of 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.
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 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.
Social contests with a clever idea on top of a concept can be a great sales promotion. 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.
Abandoned cart offer
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 rat
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. We wrote more about sign up strategies in this post.
Buy and donate
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. “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.
Give 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. If you’d like to explore more from psychological marketing strategies, visit here.
“We added an extra $10 to your card! Spend it in our store. Hurry up, the free balance will be gone by midnight!”
Pain points smoother
Discounts, gift cards or coupons can say more than a simple "we're sorry" to an unsatisfied customer. 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 let 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).
Each promotion idea you decide to use needs to be enrolled on a microscale 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.
Learn how to implement these campaigns and build promotion system that works.