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How to Run a Discount That Benefits Your Customers and Your Business

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The COVID-19 crisis is shutting down brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S. Companies of all shapes and sizes are flocking to the Internet in an attempt to save their bottom line. This sudden mass migration into the online marketplace has escalated the number of companies vying for what was already precious Internet traffic.  Whether your company is just arriving in the e-commerce landscape or it was already established and is suddenly under competitive pressure, you may be considering how to run a discount to stand out from the competition.

Running a discount can be a good marketing strategy — when done right. Here are some tips and tricks as you launch your online discount in the midst of a turbulent digital marketplace.

Aim to Delight

Concepts like upselling and cross-selling are common marketing tactics. They marry a customer’s current products with other suggestions. These tactics are a persuasive attempt to add them to their online shopping cart before they check out.

However, the term “upselling” has come to have a fairly negative connotation to many consumers. This is especially true when the concept is applied in a manner that can take advantage of the customer. For example, it might involve offering them products and services that don’t genuinely provide them with value.

As you strategize about how to run a discount, it’s certainly important to remember the benefits of upselling. However, as you do so, you should also look for ways to combine those benefits with real value for your customers. Ontraport, a CRM and marketing automation software provider, describes upsells and cross-sells as suggestions to your customers that perfectly represent what they need in that moment. These offerings should not only increase revenue, but they should also provide value for the customer.

In other words, look for ways to catch both prospective and repeat customers with a hook (e.g. your discount). Then, offer upsells and cross-sells throughout the conversion process that genuinely benefits the customer as well as yourself.  This doesn’t just improve your bottom line. It also ultimately delights the customer and helps to build long-term loyalty to your brand.

Set Goals

With so much of the business world in flux, it’s tempting to throw out the formulas and calculations and start shooting from the hip. Any savvy entrepreneur knows that nothing in the big-data-driven world can truly succeed over the long run without a little forethought — okay, a lot of forethought.

One of the most critical pieces of this deliberate anticipation comes through setting goals. For example, if you’re going to price something online at loss-leader pricing, you need to set a benchmark that will count as a virtual equivalent to “getting foot traffic” in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting. Things like overall traffic to your website, dwell time, conversion rates, number of new clients, and average order size can all be factors that you track depending on the industry and products or services that you’re offering.

Regardless of the specifics, setting goals is an essential part of a successful discount campaign. It provides direction and strategy — such as trying to build your brand recognition, generating sales, or increasing customer loyalty — and can help you measure how successful your campaign truly is when the rubber hits the road.

Consider Your Options

There are many ways to run a discount online. In fact, you can even avoid the word “discount” if you don’t want to infer a lower value. Terms like “bundle” and “special” can generate interest without it ever sounding like you’ve artificially undervalued your products.

In addition, you can offer things like free shipping, percentage discounts, dollar value discounts, and store vouchers. You might provide a straight-up free gift conditional on a purchase. Take Bath and Body Works as an example. There’s a reason the candle and body care store continues to thrive.  Beyond the desire to get their house-warming candles, customers are drawn in through coupons and constantly-changing discounts. 

All of that to say, you have options. While each situation can vary, it’s important to consider which of these options will provide the best results for your particular goals and objectives.

Prepare Your Promotional Channels

A discount is completely useless if no one is aware of it. It’s important to include your promotional channels when you outline your discount strategy. Some common online promotional channels include:

  • Social media: Platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and Twitter can all provide excellent outreach to propagate your discount directly to potential customers.
  • Email campaigns: An email list of opt-in subscribers is an ideal way to promote discounts to repeat customers.
  • Your website: From homepage text to corner popups, you can use your website to gently inform customers of your discount.
  • Influencers: You can work with popular influencers in your industry to help promote your discount.
  • Affiliate marketers: You can provide a percentage of each discounted sale in exchange for affiliates promoting your discount. Just make sure you aren’t losing money when you combine the discount and the affiliate cut of each sale. 
  • Pay per click (PPC) advertising: If you have a marketing budget, you can create PPC ads to push your discount in front of as many targeted search engine and social media users as possible.

Each of these can be effective in their own way. But, it’s also important that you consider the difference between each marketing channel as you prepare to promote your discount. For example, you might need an image with a text overlay to announce the discount on Pinterest, whereas you would need a text-driven option for an email list. Either way, you’ll need the appropriate hyperlinks to direct customers to your site to claim the discount.

Planning is Everything

The takeaway? Take the time to properly plan out how you’ll promote your discount along with creating the discount itself. Aim to combine your promotional efforts with a purposeful strategy that considers your options, sets goals, and aims to answer customer’s needs while simultaneously upselling in conjunction with your discount. 

If you can do this, you can run a discount that catches the eye of consumers in a crowded online marketplace and ultimately translates into greater sales and success for your e-commerce endeavors.



Peter Daisyme

Co-Founder at Hostt
Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Hostt, specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life. Previously he was the co-founder of Pixloo, a company that helped people sell their homes online, that was acquired in 2012.

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