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This guide to good promotions and sales is a comprehensive tutorial. It will help you maintain customers, attract new buyers, and keep your online business on the fast track to continual success.

Good Promotions, Discounts and Coupons for Your Online Store: Everything You Need to Know

Define discount
Sales promotions with single item discounts
How to offer promotion codes to your customers
Types of deals for your online store
What are the different types of coupons you can offer?
Choose the right ecommerce platform for good promotions
Sales promotion ideas
How to promote your discounts online
Loyalty discounts

Discount code illustration from Selz ecommerce for business growth

Define discount

The Oxford Dictionary defines a coupon as “a voucher entitling the holder to a discount for a particular product.” Online discounts seem completely different from the coupons your grandparents clipped out of the newspaper. But are they?

At the end of the day, customers are looking for a deal, so whatever you call them, you’re interested in offering a deal online.

Sales promotions with single item discounts

Discounts are a great way to promote your business- “Try our new product! Enter this code for $5.00 off” or “For a limited time only, take $10.00 off your entire purchase! Use this code: xxxx”.

Offering a single-item discount pulls in new customers. The markdown allows your new visitors to dip their toes into your online store without feeling like they are spending too much on something new. One-off discounts can also let you offer deals that make your current customers feel special.

A grocery store full of sale and discounts signs illustrates an article about good promotions for Selz the Ecommerce platform for growing businesses

The Value of Good Promotions

You can use discounts on a wide range of products on a continual basis or for a limited amount of time. Discounts are more than just buy one get one free. Free shipping, clearance items, and bulk purchases are all examples of good promotions.

Offering ecommerce discounts in bulk means that you sell more of your product. Bulk costs on your items mean that you have more resources to make your products.

Discounts help you promote great products. If your product or service is satisfying, then customers will return and be willing to spend more with or without a sale price.

Good promotions help you make more money in the long run. An offer like free shipping makes your customer think that they are special, and encourages them to spend more on your ecommerce site.

Read: The Psychology Behind Deals And Discounts

How to offer promotion codes to your customers

Okay, so now you know what a discount is, so how can you use discounts to increase sales online?

The first few promotion codes you offer will probably have some challenges. But after the initial learning period, you’ll be a pro, earning more income from your online store than ever before!

Purchasing or creating a significant amount of bulk product is a must if you are selling physical products.  For example, if you create a $2 off discount for the travel size of your perfume that discount gives your customers a practice run with the scent. If they like it, they’ll buy the larger everyday bottle of perfume for $60. It is a slight gamble, but you’ll get more profit in the long run.

Larger ecommerce discounts work on a similar principle. Free shipping is a common and oft-mentioned discount. Customers expect most online stores to offer free shipping and have found that this discount has a big impact on sales.

To get more money out of a customer to cover the cost of free shipping online sellers, set a price range for free shipping. For example, spend $50 and receive free shipping on all items!

Types of deals for your online store

Good promotions cover a number of options, from offering cold hard digital cash to bulk orders. With this wide range of options, it can be confusing to determine which discounts will benefit your online store.

Popular options for promotions include:

Cold Hard Digital Cash

This is the hardest discount to give to customers because you worked so hard to start your online store. We know you are diligently budgeting every penny you spend.

The idea behind this discount is to attract new customers, who will bring more money to your online store. So, if you offer a $5 or more discount off for purchase, customers will jump at the chance to get free money, getting more traffic to your online store.

Over a period of time, mark up your prices so that you are making money even with a discount. The best option is to mark up the lowest item in your online store, just enough to cover your discount again. This will be the item most customers will try first.

Be sure to stock up on items so you don’t run out of merchandise halfway through your sale. Even the most reluctant customer is going to have a hard time passing up “free” money. Offering in-store cash as a discount is a great way to get traffic to your online store while increasing your profit margin.

Percentage-Off Discounts

The percentage-off discount works on a similar principle. Providing a percentage off incites customers to spend a little more. You can mark up the difference in a few different places depending on what kind of percentage discount you choose to supply.

Easy discounts to take off a percentage of the price are:

  • One item
  • Group of sale items
  • Bulk shipping
  • A clearance section with sale items

Planning ahead can save you money. Purchase the items, or material needed to make the items, in bulk to save some. More merchandise will be moving because of the sale, plan ahead. Add a minimum amount that each customer must spend to receive the discount. For example, an offer like spending $25 to get 15% off can help accrue more profit.

Another strategy for bulk discounts is to have the percentage off accumulate over time for the customer. You can offer by offering a higher percentage off your product that increases with additional customer purchases.

If you decide your online store will no longer be carrying an item or service, mark it down to be rid of it faster. This is a great discount for items that customers rarely buy since the frenzy of lower price and availability make for a quick sale.

Free Shipping Discounts

Free shipping makes customers feel like they can save money and shop without leaving their homes. No waiting in lines, or searching for the right aisle or paying postage. You take on that postage cost, which can destroy your profits and put you in the red if you’re not careful. Assuming responsibility for shipping costs sounds great, but is not necessary for every online store.

  1. Check out your competition. If other online stores are offering free shipping, then your online store should be too. If your competition is not offering free shipping, you have the opportunity to offer something unique to attract customers.
  2. Research your consumer base and mailing costs. Where are most of your purchases going? If they are within a reasonable geographical distance from you, costs will be low and you can offer free shipping options. But if your customers are ordering from across the country or internationally, costs can get very high.
  3. Look at the shipping integrations for your ecommerce platform. Pairing up with a mailing company like FedEx or UPS might assuage costs. Economy shipping via USPS might also be a viable option to cover this discount for your online store.
  4. Examine your product. If you are selling something lightweight, like jewelry or paper products, it is can be easy and cheap to mail. Selling bowling balls or rock collections? Not so much.

Consider packaging and insurance on your item and add these to the overall cost when you tally up your shipping expenses. If all of these steps have you thinking you can afford to offer free shipping in your online store, go for it.

Customers often bail when they see the final shipping cost at checkout, so having free shipping allows you to keep those finicky shoppers.

Read: How Abandoned Cart Emails Can Increase Sales

Alternatives to Free Shipping

If continuous free shipping is too expensive for your online store, offer promotional or seasonal discounts that include free shipping.

Plan this discount for the busiest time of your sale season, or for a lightweight product that is new to your online store.

There is no reason you have to offer free shipping on all items you are selling online. If you have to exclude the heaviest item or choose to offer free shipping on select items that is fine too.

Read: Selling Online? Here are 7 Types of Discounts and Coupons to Use

Touching on exclusions and restrictions, these are definitely needed to keep your shipping costs from getting out of hand. Most online stores won’t ship to international destinations because of the expense and hassle.

You can place weight restrictions, or a minimum cart amount before including free shipping to cover these extra costs. This spending threshold encourages customers to spend more. Include these details in your discount to let customers know your limits.

Be sure to also communicate insurance for your shipments, tracking, and how fast they will arrive at your customers’ mailing address.

An image of a sharpie with the words competitive pricing illustrates an article about good promotions and sales for Selz

What are the different types of coupons you can offer?

There are so many types of coupons that it can be tough to keep it all together.

Coupons are another great sale option to use in your online store.

Discounts are usually a long-running sale, such as the bulk option or clearance, whereas coupons usually run on a flash sale basis.

Limiting the time on a coupon entices customers to make a quick sale before they lose out, so more products are sold quickly at your online store.

If you let your customers know “This coupon is good for buy one get one free,” they will buy more of your product on your terms while they think they are getting a deal.

And since your online store is selling them quality goods and services, they are!

1. Coupons for Buying More

A great example of how to entice customers to buy more than they intended to is to have a coupon that has a threshold, such as “Buy X amount, get X off”.

To get the deal, customers have to spend a specific amount. Be sure to mark up a few best selling items by a slight margin to make up the difference.

This sale is great, because it gives customers a chance to peruse your entire store looking for extra items to buy to fulfill the threshold. Your online store gets more traffic, especially to pages or items that are low sellers, and customers see all you have to offer for future purchases.

It’s a win-win situation, and you are profiting from it.

One issue with this coupon to keep in mind is that customers will buy some small item to fill the last little bit of the threshold, so be sure to stock up ahead of time.

Give them a ship-by date that gives you some wiggle room to make/get more of your products if you think there might be an issue filling orders.

Just add “Please allow blank amount of time to fill orders due to the massive quantity of purchases”. This gives you some space to get all you need doing done while also inviting customers to buy faster, lest you run out or end the sale early.

2. This Coupon is Good for Your Next Purchase

Another coupon type that gets customers to buy more than they originally intended is to give them a coupon for their next purchase. Send them a code with their receipt for a few weeks later, so you are constantly generating more sales to your online store.

The time limit will make them think about what to purchase, and will have them anticipating buying something soon before the sale ends.

This is a great way to entice customers to return to your store, especially first time users. The diverse nature of this type of coupon allows you to plan for future sales, and you can steer your customers to specific products in your store.

Make the coupon for a low selling or small traffic item to boost sales in a lacking area, or allow them to get a higher percentage off a clearance area to clear out inventory.

A woman smiling at her tablet looking at coupons to save money on ecommerce for her small business

Depending on what product you are selling, this coupon can be specific to the product they purchase.

For example, if you are selling a perfume or other personal care product determine when the customer will, on average, use up the product and generate the coupon sale around the same time.

Customers will be more likely to use the coupon when they need something, and you are planning ahead for more profit. Most customers will also notice that you planned for when they needed the product and will appreciate the convenience, giving your online store that much more appeal than other competitors.

Using the coupon with purchase sale is an excellent way to get customers back to your online store, while timing your coupon generates more traffic and profit.

Use this coupon for the holidays

Another time to plan for this coupon is around Thanksgiving (coupon for Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sales) to before Christmas (Get $ off this great gift!)

Holidays are excellent times to plan for these coupons, just give a two-week period for the coupon before the holiday and be sure to plan for fast delivery to make it in time.

Lots of shoppers order last minute, and you are free to add an extra delivery cost to make up for the expense of overnight delivery. The extra delivery costs themselves could be their own coupon if you chose to do that, since this type of coupon can be used for anything wide-ranging to extremely specific and still is lucrative if the timing is right.

3. Buy One Get One Free Types of Coupons

Everyone wants something for nothing, and you can take advantage of that with this coupon.

Buy one get one free coupons, also abbreviated as BOGO, lure customers in with the promise of more product for less money. Customers think they are getting a great deal, since they get a whole product for nothing, but in reality they are usually spending more.

This coupon moves product from your online store faster, and you can make up costs by added shipping, or offering the trial size for free.

Additionally, it doesn’t have to be buy one product get one free, it could be buy 2 or 3 and get another one free. Whatever you need to do to make up the costs you accrue is fine, and will still generate a profitable sale.

A BOGO sign for an article about different types of coupons and Selz ecommerce

Try this coupon with product variants

This type of coupon is especially profitable for items that have more than one flavor, scent or type available, because then customers get the option to try items they normally wouldn’t purchase.

Allowing customers the chance to try something new from your online store lures them back in after they discover they like it and want to buy more.

Using BOGO is another way to target specific items that are best sellers or easy to produce at your online store to gain even more profit.

4. Email Blasters

Email blaster coupons are so popular that Google’s Gmail has a specific promotion section for them.

This is one of the best methods of promoting your coupons, which will be covered more in the next chapter. Sending out coupons en masse to your customers gets the coupon to them before your deadline is up. Email blaster coupons can be any of the types discussed above.

The most important thing about these email blasters is to get an email from customers, so include email information in the checkout portion of your store and also have a separate section where customers can sign up their email for sales information.

Learn more about coupons and discounts with Selz today!

Choose the right ecommerce platform for good promotions

To offer an online discount you will create a discount code. This code is specific to the item or items you put on sale, and your customers use it when they check out. The Selz ecommerce platform has built-in options for you to offer good promotions. You can easily add discount codes to any item in your store.

Read: Adding Discount Codes and Sharing Discounted Products

Selz is an online website hosting platform designed to grow your business online. You can use your existing website to create a store with Selz or start one of your own with a range of original website themes. The Selz platform is compatible with WordPress, Wix, and tons of other websites.

Selz gives your customers one-stop shopping with buttons or widgets that allow your customers to have a smooth, easy way to buy on your website, blog, or social media.

Selz offers global tax settings, and fraud protection for your online store in a secure, professional manner. 24/7 customer support is there to assist if you need it.

Read: Why Selz is the Best Ecommerce Platform for Small Business

Sales promotion ideas

Selz has a whole slew of articles on all things online business. This is one of the best websites to visit to get your online business started, to one-up a growing business, and to rock at gaining a profit.

The writers at Selz have real experience and in-depth knowledge of the online selling world. Reading a few articles can expand your knowledge of selling online.

Read more:

How to promote your discounts online

Now that you know what types of discounts and coupons are out there how do you go about promoting them to your customers?

Sure, you can post your sales on your website, and you should, but not everyone visits your site. There are lots of places you can promote your discounts if you know where to look. Let’s talk about using social media, sites specific to target in your niche, and how coupon clippers can be a valuable resource.

Social Media

Social media platforms are great to use to promote your online store, and each platform is unique. Chances are, you already know how to use most of these platforms. Begin by creating new accounts for your online store and start promoting your sales!

A woman working on her computer accompanies an article about ecommerce sales and good promotions for Selz, the Ecommerce platform for growing business

Instagram

Instagram is great because all it takes to promote your online store is a picture of your product. Take pictures of your products, add the name, price, and a fun tidbit about each product under the image and voila! Sales.

Leave the account open to the public to get more followers, and follow others to promote your offers.

In addition to pictures, Instagram also has a feature where you can add an Instagram Story. You can film a short video or include a series of pictures that appear at the top of a follower’s feed daily.

Important things to remember for time-sensitive sales on Instagram:

  • You can’t put links to your online store website below your pictures, you have to link it in the About section
  • Keep posting or reposting pictures to keep them fresh on the feed to your followers.

Read: Why Use Instagram Marketing for Your Small Business?

Facebook

Facebook is a fantastic way to get exposure for your online store and sales. Create an account, and start posting! This site allows you to post pictures or text and followers can share your posts with friends. Once again, leave your account on public so everyone can see it.

Read: How to Sell Stuff on Facebook at Scale

Twitter

Twitter is another easy way to share your best promotions. Start an account and leave it open to the public. In the bio section, include a link to your online store. Post about your sales, upload pictures of new merchandise and generally talk to your customers on a regular basis to keep them interested in what your store has to offer. Use popular hashtags to increase exposure to your Twitter account, which leads to more traffic for your website and more sales.

Other Social Media Ideas

Pinterest can link images to your website. Snapchat is a fast promotion good for flash sales. You can even use LinkedIn for B2B online store promotions.

Update and post as much as you can, but be aware of trends and social events. Make sure you are aware of what the hashtag refers to before you use it.

Proofreading is Your Friend

Don’t forget to proofread your hashtags before posting. It can sometimes be easy to take sentiments out of context, or autocorrect can insert the wrong words.

Simple mistakes are easily correctable, but some can become a viral issue if you use them wrong. If you do, ah well, any press is good press, right? It will blow over quickly while still getting your online store out onto the vast Internet web.

Email and Newsletters

Another way to keep in contact with your customers is to get their email. Make the email ask a part of your checkout requirements so you can send your emails to your loyal customers.

If you feel ambitious, create a newsletter with information about what is going on with your online store. A fun, simple email newsletter is easy to read and makes customers feel like they know you personally. This makes them more inclined to purchase from you instead of your competition.

Read: Email Marketing 101

Not sure what to write about? Add ecommerce website updates, new products, and of course your current or upcoming sales in your newsletter. If you don’t have enough time to make a detailed newsletter, regular short emails about your store and upcoming sale are good too.

To improve your online store and customer service, shoot out a survey via email once or twice a year. This will help you see how your customers feel about your online store. A short 5-10 question survey is best, with easy multiple-choice answers and a comment box. Include a free item or coupon with the completion of the survey to improve feedback.

Read: How to Improve Product Quality with Customer Feedback

Niche Websites

Other great places for promotion are niche sites that are specific to your online store and products. For example, if you sell baby toys, Google mommy blogs. Moms discuss the best baby toys, foods, and more on their blogs. These online communities generate tons of traffic from other mothers looking for reviews.

Shoot the web host an email about your online store, and maybe ask for a review or to talk about your product. Whatever you are selling online, search for blogs that relate to your product and send them an email.

Most niche bloggers are very willing to work with you, but may expect a free or discounted product for their review, so prepare to negotiate.

This method of promotion takes a little more work on your part, but it will get you customers who you know will want your product, unlike the general exposure of social media. This method will definitely draw in customers who want your product immediately.

Read: How to Find Influencers for Your Niche

Coupon Clippers

Another good place to post-sale information is on coupon websites. Groupon, RetailMeNot, and other websites post sales, discounts, and coupons for people to search through.

Submit your best promotions for more exposure to your sale. This method is great for current customers, and extreme couponers are always looking for a great sale, so you get new traffic to your site as well.

Be sure to link to your social media and online store so current customers can help spread your promotions too.

An image of games at a carnival and the offer to win a prize illustrates the value of games and customer loyalty programs for an article about good promotions

Loyalty discounts

Good promotions bring traffic to your website and entice new people to purchase from you, but how do you get them to stay? How will you entice them to return once they’ve placed that first order? There are many options, and we recommend customer clubs and booklets to hook people in.

Customer Clubs

A customer club, also known as a loyalty program, is a group of customers who regularly patronize your store. Most customers are familiar with loyalty programs, and many join these programs for the added benefits.

There are many kinds of loyalty programs you can set up for your store:

  1. Tiered System, allowing people to move up in benefits as they spend more at your online store. A tiered system allows you to target your benefits to specific customers on each platform. Want to see a tiered system in action? Check out how Sephora uses this strategy with its Beauty Insider loyalty program.
  2. Points Club. In a points club, for every amount of money a customer spends, they get a proportionate amount of points. Once they reach a certain level, they get a reward. Make sure your reward is highly coveted and encourages your customers to spend. Setting up a points club can be a challenge with this club, but there are lots of software programs created to assist with this type of points system.
  3. Games. With a games club, each level of spending unlocks a new part of the game. These games are generally themed to your online store, and opportunities in the game to win something from your Ecommerce site, like a free item or discount code.

Other ways to get customers involved or to create clubs include customers who follow all of your social media accounts, customers who repost your sales, affiliates, or reviewers. These people are helping promote your store, and rewarding them gets your name out there to a broader network.

Once you have your club, entice people to join! Give members a jump start on discounts and tell everyone about it.

Using this method of advertising pushes customers to spend just a bit more. If a customer order comes to just under the threshold and you make it clear that there are more benefits if they spend a bit more, most customers will take the plunge and join your program. Any of the discounts or coupons we already went over in previous chapters can apply to your customer club members.

Discount Booklets

A great tool that can give your online store the jump on sales is a discount booklet. This helps keep you organized and prepared as well. A discount booklet is exactly what it sounds like- a list of discounts and times when they’ll be available.

A discounts booklet helps you plan out and promote your sales in advance. Having an organized plan, even three months in advance, can keep your sales promotions and product stock on a schedule that is easy to manage.

Send out these discount booklets with your sales schedule is another promotion method for your online store!  If customers hesitate about the price of an item or are looking at a competitor’s store, knowing there is a sale on the way can change their minds so they purchase from you.

Discount booklets are another opportunity for your customer club- their discount booklets could have an extra coupon added to their booklet.

Are you already planning your first big sale after reading this article? Selz takes the hassle and worry out of promotions and lets you focus on what you care about: product quality and making a profit. Try Selz for a 14-day free trial today.

This post was originally published in June 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

About the author

Haley Tasiemski

Haley Tasiemski is a content writer, and she has been researching and writing for online business blogs for 2 years. Haley has 2 bachelor’s degrees in both English and Bio-Field Communications.

She lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, traveling around writing when she isn’t gardening or attempting to train her fuzzy lab puppy, Lula.

4 comments

  1. Kristen DeCosta

    Hey Alexander!

    I am so glad you found this so helpful. Discounts can be a HUGE asset to your store. A lot of people think they will lose money using discounts, but as Haley pointed out, they can actually increase your revenue. This guide is going to be so helpful to you. Stay tuned, much more to come!

  2. Kristen DeCosta

    Hi Jane!

    What a great tip for other users. Thanks for including this helpful idea! It is definitely a great promotional tool that a lot of people forget about. Customers love free stuff, and it’s a great way to entice them to buy more. Thanks!

  3. Jane B.

    This is really great. I’ve also found a lot of success doing promotions revolved around adding a free product with a spend limit. Like if a customer spends $50, they get a free product. It’s usually one of my smaller products that doesn’t cost much to make, so in the end I am not losing any money.

  4. Alexander Goodwin

    This is really helpful! I wanted to include some discounts to my store, but never really knew how it would work. I am excited to read the rest of this guide.

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