Which sales promotion strategies really work for marketers? Start with these.
The competition for customer attention is hotter than ever. Eighty-four percent of marketers surveyed in our latest State of Marketing report said customer expectations are changing their digital strategies. The good news is marketers can still earn attention with the right sales promotion tips, especially when those deals are personalized.
According to the Q2 2021 Shopping Index, average order values are higher compared to historically lower discounts. Today’s shoppers will spend more if the experience is better.
By definition, a sales promotion is an activity applied for a predetermined, limited period of time, with the aim of increasing consumer demand and stimulating sales. Sales promotions give potential customers an additional reason to consider doing business with you and your company.
Sales promotions are a great way to encourage potential customers to buy your product or sign up for your service. Done well, they boost short-term sales and attract new customers, prompt positive online reviews, and lead to repeat purchases. Sales promotions are even more important as holiday strategies have become year-round efforts as brands target key shopping dates in every season.
The challenge is that we can feel desensitized by too many sales promotions. Your inbox is probably packed with marketing emails offering discounts, special prices, buy-one-get-one offers, flash sales, and free-shipping offers. The end result is an overwhelmed consumer who may simply ignore your messages or unsubscribe.
Falling short of expectations could mean losing customers, attracting negative reviews, and damaging your brand’s reputation.
Customers want a personalized experience that matches their standards for product quality. They are looking for offers that are personally relevant, and they want to feel like companies they engage with truly understand them as individuals.
Shoppers and prospects want this level of customer engagement across the entire customer journey — meaning marketers need to think well beyond their traditional domain. Falling short of expectations could mean losing customers, attracting negative reviews, and damaging your brand’s reputation.
What are the basic strategies for sales promotions?
Once customers are willing to take that first step and try your product — through limited trial periods, discounts, special offers, free shipping, branded gifts, loyalty programs, or digital coupons — they’ll be happy enough with the results to spend more with you.
Offering a discount is a tried-and-true way to win over customers, boost sales, and move stock. According to the Salesforce 2021 survey of 12,000 consumers, 85% of Baby Boomers said that discounts are the most valuable part of a loyalty program. Discounts can be limited to a specific point in the customer journey — for example, their first online order — or a seasonal or holiday promotion. Or consider an alternative, such as offering a special price — for example, “nothing over $20” — or a buy-one-get-one deal.
Sales promotions to grow your subscriber list
One sales promotion strategy popping up across consumer goods’ websites is this “wheel of savings” or “spin to win” tactic. San Diego-based Blenders Eyewear is one company using this approach. The customer gets a Vegas thrill while the business benefits by growing their email subscriber list.
Sales promotions for customer loyalty
If your goal is to retain your existing customers rather than a short-term sales boost, consider offering rewards points. Reward points don’t offer the possibility of immediate gratification like discounts, but they will appeal to customers who shop with you on a regular basis. According to McKinsey & Company, 75% of U.S. consumers try new shopping behaviors due to effects of the pandemic – economic shifts, store closings, and changing priorities.
What about coupons?
Coupons are another promotional tool transformed by technology. You can send them directly to customers via email or text. You can use them to encourage joining a mailing list, or as a thank you to people who have. You can also personalize coupon incentives based on a customer’s browsing or purchasing history, or use them to remind customers about an abandoned shopping cart.
Encourage customers with gifts and samples
Launching a new product? Take a tip from companies like Costco and hand out samples in store, or include them with online orders. Sampling works well with products such as health and beauty products, perfume, and food. Offering a gift to consumers who buy a specific product or spend a certain amount can also help convince customers to make a purchase or spend more than they might have otherwise.
What makes a sales promotion work?
To effectively capture your customers’ interest (and business), your sales promotion strategy should include these six essential elements:
1. Select the right target audience
The difficulty with any marketing campaign lies in targeting who will eventually become loyal customers. Many marketers cast a large net to catch customers by virtue of percentages. Their strategy is to contact enough prospects so that some of them convert. A smaller percentage of those customers will become loyal customers.
This idea is inefficient, as only a small fraction of prospects and leads become buyers – and don’t necessarily offset the initial investment. Instead, by predetermining a target audience, businesses can put their finite marketing resources to better use.
To understand the best target audience for your promotion, you first need to understand more about the customers you have.
The same is true for sales promotion campaigns. To understand the best target audience for your promotion, you first need to understand more about the customers you have. Send customers a simple survey asking them about themselves. Offer an incentive that encourages them to take the time and share their personal information.
Once you have a clear idea of who uses your product or service, identify exactly what kinds of problems your product or service is designed to solve. Focus your sales promotion on those who are most likely to be genuinely interested.
2. Set measurable goals
Ask yourself what the most important objective of your promotion should be.
- Are you hoping to draw in new customers, or are you more inclined to focus on customer retention?
- Do you want your customers to purchase more frequently, or would you like for them to increase the average spend per purchase?
- Are you attempting to increase your business during slower seasons or times of day?
- Are you interested in regaining the attention of former customers who have taken their business elsewhere?
Determine exactly what you want to accomplish with your sales promotion, then add a specific number — one that is ambitious but achievable — to the goal. This will allow you to chart your success or failure, and identify aspects of your campaign you need to change or develop.
3. Limit availability
Behavioral psychologists have found human beings tend to assign greater value to things they perceive as being scarce. In a classic 1975 study, researchers had participants assign perceived value to identical cookies located in two identical jars. The only difference between the two jars was that one had 10 cookies, while the other had only two. While there was no apparent difference between the cookies or the jars, participants assigned greater value to the jar with two cookies.
Popular culture has also birthed “fear of missing out,” popularly known as FOMO. This is anxiety about missing out on an exciting event or rewarding experience that other people know about.
Take advantage of these behavioral triggers by offering limited-time deals. A sales promotion — such as a gift with purchase — may seem like an attractive incentive for motivating sales, but unless that promotion is only available for a limited time or in limited quantities, customers might not respond. If faced with the possibility of missing the promotion if they don’t act quickly, they may be more likely to commit.
4. Don’t forget to promote your promotions
Your sales promotion is an effort to draw customer attention to your organization’s product or service. But what about drawing attention to the promotion itself? For a promotion to be effective, your target audience needs to see it and understand it.
Market or advertise your promotions like any other product or service. In-store signage, website, blogs, social media, email marketing campaigns, text messaging, mobile apps, media releases, brochures, and print and online advertising can all be effective ways to let prospective customers know about your sales promotion.
Visibility is key. Just be sure to account for the marketing cost of promoting your promotion. Otherwise, you might end up spending more on advertising than you’ll make back through increased sales. Focus on promotional strategies that have demonstrated return on investment (ROI). For example, email marketing has a very high average ROI — $38 for each $1 spent.
5. Offer real value
When all is said and done, the customer is interested in just one thing from your organization: value. If your sales promotion doesn’t offer them real value, then all the targeted marketing and limited-time offers in the world won’t make your sales promotion a success.
Ask yourself what kind of offer your potential customers will find most interesting, then determine whether you can afford to give it to them. That’s the perfect sales promotion. If you can’t afford it, scale it back until you come to a compromise that will appeal to your target audience and remain cost-effective for your organization.
6. Review your results
Before you begin brainstorming your next big sales promotion, take time to measure your results. Schedule a post-mortem on your campaign to see how sales stacked up against your goals. Be sure you’re reviewing this at the right time in your sales cycle.
As customers’ expectations of brands increase — along with competition for their wallets elsewhere — ensure that customer experience is at the heart of every sales promotion you design. Look beyond the traditional boundaries of marketing and break down organizational silos. Ensuring your promotions have a personalized and real-time component is always a smart strategy.