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How to stop training people to look for obvious discounts

Dan Bond
February 20, 2024

For many retailers, the playbook for discounts remains pretty stagnant. The classics like '10% off for first-time customers' and '10% off for email sign-ups' are dusted off and deployed as an almost Pavlovian response.

Ring the bell and get the conversions.

Yet, this staleness is precisely what creates expectations for the "obvious discounts" – a game that can be detrimental to brand value, margins, and long-term loyalty.

To break free from this rut, eCommerce marketers must revamp their approach to discounts. This entails shifting from sticking out the offers to proper strategy and planning.

A strategic discount position and annual plan

Firstly, you need to answer the question - what is your brand's position on discounts? This requires a deep understanding of your brand and your eCommerce performance.

Planning promotions shouldn't be an afterthought.

Few tactics you deploy on your site have the impact, both positive and negative, that discounts have. To create an effective discount strategy, it's essential to begin with detailed planning that aligns with your business goals.

This means thinking beyond calendar holidays and annual promotional periods and coordinating discounts with product launches, inventory management, and market trends.

Aim for relevance

One size fits none in the world of eCommerce discounts. Consumers are bombarded with generic offers that, quite frankly, no longer cut it.

Instead, plan around context and relevance:

  • Where are your visitors and customers in the funnel?
  • What are they likely to be doing? Researching? Ready to buy but looking for the best price?
  • Are they new, or have you seen them before?

Creating scarcity

People want what they believe they might lose.

Scarcity tactics, used ethically, can create a sense of urgency and drive immediate action. Limited-time, limited-quantity, or flash sales are excellent ways to give discounts a hard-to-resist flavor of exclusivity.

Change your discount tactics regularly.

Bundling for more spend

Upsell, cross-sell, and stretch and save discounts are a double win: customers get great value, and retailers can move more slow-selling stock or encourage higher AOV.

This approach should involve evaluating which items complement each other well, where demand needs to be driven to help the business, and offer substantial savings.

Technology for optimization

Discount planning is further enhanced by sophisticated analytics and real-time testing. These tools refine and optimize your strategy, ensuring that promotions hit the mark without eroding profits and brand.

Measuring and learning

Advanced analytics provide the data necessary to measure the performance of promotions accurately.

They can reveal which discounts resonate with specific customer segments or uncover opportunities for A/B testing to improve conversion rates.

Streamlining the process

Deploying discounts at scale can be a logistical nightmare without automation.

Using marketing platforms that automate the delivery and management of discount campaigns saves time and resources while also guaranteeing that the right offer gets to the right customer at the right time.

Continuous Testing

Finally, what works this month or year might not work the next.

Ongoing A/B testing ensures that your discount strategy remains agile and in tune with shifting consumer behaviors and market dynamics. Based on these insights, you can update, discard, or introduce new promotions with confidence.

Ethical discounts

Ethical considerations should lie at the heart of your discount strategy. While it may be tempting to slash prices indiscriminately, such practices can devalue your brand and train customers to wait for sales before making purchases.

Long-term loyalty is best nurtured through transparent, consistent, and fair discount programs. You can achieve this by maintaining clear communication, avoiding excessive discounts that slash margins, and ensuring that the discounts align with your brand's value proposition.

Rewrite your discount playbook

Discounts in eCommerce are a balancing act between driving sales and maintaining the bottom line. By going beyond 'obvious discounts' and embracing a strategic approach underpinned by planning, you'll be able to use discounts differently for your brand.

Remember, a discount is not just a number; it's a tool that turns visitors into shoppers into loyal customers. It's time to stop training people to look for obvious discounts – and start training them to recognize the value that sets your brand apart.

eCommerce Funnel Optimization Guide