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20 Online Promotion Ideas That Win Customers

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Online promotions are a great way to re-engage your contact database while also enticing new website visitors to make a first-time purchase. 

Statistics show that online sales promotions have a huge impact on customer behavior, with 2/3rds of customers making a purchase they weren't planning to make if they receive an online promotion code. 

While holiday promos generate significant revenue, you’ll be competing with every other ecommerce business with the same idea. Consumers are bombarded with emails and ads during the holidays, and it can be hard to get eyes on your promotion. 

If you want to earn your prospects’ money, you need to stand out against thousands of competitors, year-round. By not letting the calendar dictate your sales, you have a greater opportunity to reach inboxes and news feeds without competition.   

I’ve compiled a list of online promotion ideas that will help you generate profit all year long.

Table of Contents

20 Ecommerce Promotion Ideas

1. Flash Sales

11. Collaborative Contests

2. Exclusive Discounts for Subscribers

12. Referral Programs

3. Cart Abandonment Recovery

13. 12 Days of December

4. Christmas in July

14. Newsletter Sign-Up Discount

5. Cashback Incentives

15. Pre-Order Campaigns

6. Loyalty Programs

16. “Just in Time” Promos

7. Mystery Offers

17. Limited-Time Offers

8. Product Bundles

18. Buy One, Get One (BOGO)

9. Social Proof

19. Unofficial Holidays

10. Early Black Friday/Cyber Monday

20. Free Shipping

The Benefits of Running Ecommerce Promotions

First, let’s go over some key pointers on why you should run regular ecommerce promotions. 

If you want your ecommerce business to achieve long-term success, you need to ensure your brand is top of mind for customers. 

Online retail promotions are essential to increasing customer lifetime value (LTV) and driving a continuous stream of revenue. 

A RetailMeNot survey found that 93% of consumers would make a repeat purchase with a retailer that offered good discounts. Comparatively, 48% said they avoid brands that don’t provide offers. 

That said, if you can attract and delight customers with original promotions all year round, they're more likely to spend money with you during big retail holidays. According to the same survey, repeat customers spend 25% more per transaction during the busy holiday season (November and December).

Successful promotions offer value to your customers while generating profit. But running the same promotions over and over can get repetitive fast. Your business needs to implement new tactics to increase customer LTV and maintain a competitive edge. 

20 Ecommerce Promotion Ideas to Use Today

Awesome promotions are essential for growing any business. Learn how to drive traffic, attract new customers, and increase sales with these 20 ideas.

1. Flash Sales

During a flash sale, ecommerce stores offer specific products for a limited time at a deep discount. 

Flash sales are a great way to generate hype for excess inventory or make room for new products, all while offering value to your customers and bringing in quick revenue.

Flash sales create a sense of urgency and exclusivity. Customers don’t want to miss out on deals that might not happen again for a while. Flash sale emails also boost email open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates.

Online Promotion Ideas That Win Customers - Flash Sales

Since the promotion time is short, you can plan multiple flash sales throughout the year. Make sure your website and inventory are prepared to handle a sudden spike in traffic.   

2. Exclusive Discounts for Subscribers

Providing exclusive discounts and promotions to subscribers creates a sense of belonging and encourages new sign-ups. By offering special incentives, such as first access to sales or unique discounts, you can build a loyal customer base and increase repeat purchases.

3. Cart Abandonment Recovery

Cart abandonment is a common challenge for online retailers, but it also presents an opportunity to recover lost sales. 

You can use automated email reminders with personalized incentives, like a discount code or free shipping offer, to encourage customers to come back and complete their purchase.

4. Christmas in July

Summer is a historically slow season in the retail world. But you don’t have to let the summer blues slow your revenue stream.

Christmas in July began as a European tradition. During blistering summer days, people longed for the gift-giving holiday spirit. Christmas in July quickly morphed into a retail holiday, and companies started imitating festivities and extending deep discounts generally reserved for the holiday season.

With a Christmas in July promo, you’ll have minimal competition in the middle of the summer. Boost lackluster summer sales, and avoid fighting for real estate in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Retail giants like Amazon and Walmart push Christmas in July promotions, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this idea isn’t profitable for smaller ecommerce brands.

When running a Christmas in July promo for one ecommerce client, we planned a two-day sale with the highest discount we had ever offered. As a result, we generated the most revenue on a single day in the client’s company history.

5. Cashback Incentives

Cashback incentives provide customers with a reward for their purchases, making the overall cost feel lower. By offering a percentage of the purchase amount as cashback or store credits, you encourage customers to complete their transaction. Customers appreciate the feeling of getting something back and are more likely to return for future purchases.

6. Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are designed to reward customers for their engagement and repeat purchases. Implement a tiered loyalty program where customers earn points based on their purchases, which can be redeemed for discounts, exclusive offers, or even free products. 

Hot Tip: Consider offering double or triple points during promotional periods to incentivize customers to spend more and accelerate their progress in the loyalty program.

7. Mystery Offers

Humans are curious by nature. There’s no better way to pique your customers’ interest than with a mystery sale.

During a mystery sale, you offer a secret discount that the customer doesn’t see until they click through to your site, add something to their shopping cart or begin the checkout process. Using smart calls-to-action (CTAs) and modules, you can assign different discount amounts to potential customers based on their purchase history or behavior.

Even if a customer isn’t in the market to make a purchase, a mystery sale entices them to investigate what kind of discount they’ll get. Once you get those customers to your website, they're already one step closer to making a purchase.

Online Promotion Ideas That Win Customers - Mystery Offers

We planned a mystery sale for one ecommerce client using smart CTAs. To keep profit margins high, we assigned discounts based on the contact’s last purchase. We calculated the discounts based on this formula:

  • 90 days since last purchase = 25% off
  • 45-89 days since last purchase = 20% off
  • Less than 45 days since last purchase = 15% off

Each contact that visited the site saw a personalized banner that revealed their discount amount. All other visitors would see a default discount of 15%.

The mystery sale increased our email click-through rate by 200%.

At Human, we can help you use smart CTAs to personalize your promotions and maximize your net profit. See how Human can grow your ecommerce business through email marketing.

8. Product Bundles

Product bundles allow customers to enjoy multiple items at a discounted price. By combining your best-selling or related products into attractive bundles, you provide added value and encourage customers to increase their average order value

For example, bundle complementary skincare products or create curated gift sets for special occasions.

9. Social Proof

Social proof, such as customer reviews, testimonials, and user-generated content (UGC), is a powerful tool for building trust and credibility. 

Display detailed reviews and ratings prominently on your website to showcase the positive experiences of previous customers. You should also encourage customers to share their own reviews and experiences to beef up your social proof content and persuade potential buyers.

10. Early Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Did you know that, in 2022, global email sending volumes reached all-time highs on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday?  We know it’s hard to cut through the noise to get your promotions in front of prospective customers. 

Here’s a solution: Offer Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals earlier in the month to make sure your contacts see your emails. Brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart are already using this tactic to extend their sales and increase revenue.

Online Promotion Ideas That Win Customers - Early Black Friday or Cyber Monday

You might be hesitant to promote your deepest discount early, as it can potentially cannibalize your actual Black Friday and Cyber Monday profits. However, when we run this promotion for our clients, we continue to see record-breaking revenue days on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.   

Discover more hacks for increasing your Black Friday and Cyber Monday revenue with these Black Friday and Cyber Monday Ecommerce Ideas.

11. Collaborative Contests

Collaborative contests with other brands can be a gamer changer when it comes to expanding your reach and engaging a wider audience. 

Try partnering with complementary businesses; you can create joint promotions or giveaways that encourage people to follow, tag friends, and engage with your brand on social media. 

These contests can go a long way in generating user-generated content, increasing brand exposure, and attracting new customers.

12. Referral Programs

Referral programs incentivize customers to refer friends and family to your online store. 

Offer discounts, store credits, or other rewards to both the referrer and the referred customer when a successful referral is made. This not only drives customer acquisition but also taps into the power of word-of-mouth marketing, since customers are more likely to trust recommendations from people they know.

13. 12 Days of December

Three out of four consumers report that promotions are very or extremely important to them during the holiday season, so it’s critical to widen your scope of Christmas ecommerce ideas. Aim to continue promotions outside of Christmas in December. 

Coming up with unique holiday promotion ideas for your online store can be tricky, but there are other ways to sneak in some extra promotions before the year ends.

Online Promotion Ideas That Win Customers - 12 Days of December

Show your contacts you’re stoked for the holidays by offering discounts for the first 12 days of December. These early promos allow you to fit in another promotion right before Christmas, during a time when there's a little less competition for inbox space.

14. Newsletter Sign-up Discounts

Encourage customers to sign up for your newsletter by offering a discount or exclusive offer as a reward. This helps you build your email list, which becomes a valuable marketing channel to communicate promotions, product updates and personalized offers. 

Don’t forget to highlight the benefits of subscribing! Let people know what they’ll gain – for example, early access to sales, insider information or exclusive discounts – to entice them to join your newsletter.

15. Pre-Order Campaigns

Pre-order campaigns generate buzz and excitement for upcoming products or limited editions. 

Give customers a chance to secure their purchase in advance, often at a discounted price or with exclusive perks. This promo type not only helps you gauge demand and plan inventory, but it also creates a sense of exclusivity for customers who want to be among the first to own the latest products.   

16. “Just In Time” Promos 

Run special promotions a few weeks in advance, encouraging customers to shop in preparation for a holiday. Customers will have enough time to purchase your products as gifts (or for themselves), so they arrive on time for a holiday or major event. 

Some examples of holidays that need lead time for gifts or preparation are:

  • Valentine’s Day
  • Mother’s Day or Father’s Day
  • Spring break, summer vacation or long weekend holidays  
  • Graduation season
  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday
  • Christmas 

These concepts allow you to take advantage of “holiday revenue” before other ecommerce brands launch a flurry of promotions.

Online Promotion Ideas That Win Customers - Just in Time Promos

17. Limited-Time Offers

Limited-time offers create a sense of urgency and scarcity, compelling customers to make a purchase before the opportunity is gone. 

Set specific time frames for discounts, free shipping or exclusive deals to create a "now or never" mentality. Then, highlight the limited nature of the promo to motivate customers to take immediate action and make a purchase.

18. Buy One, Get One (BOGO) Offers

BOGO promotions are a customer favorite. This strategy is great for promoting products people use or need to replenish regularly, and for introducing new items to customers. For example, when a customer buys a certain product, they receive an additional item from the same brand as a free gift.

19. Unofficial Holidays

If you’re stuck in a creative rut, try capitalizing on an unusual national holiday. Businesses are finding ways to profit from unconventional holidays, such as National Pizza Day or Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Don’t be afraid to build promotions around random holidays that have nothing to do with your product. J. Crew, for example, ran a promotion on National Donut Day (June 5th) by serving complimentary donuts in all their stores. They also offered a 40% discount on sale items to celebrate the occasion.

Online Promotion Ideas That Win Customers - Unofficial Holidays

Fashion and donuts are pretty unrelated, but the free food was an excellent incentive to increase foot traffic in stores.

Check out the National Day Calendar to see all the quirky holidays you can use for your ecommerce promotions.

20. Free Shipping

I couldn’t leave out the ever-popular “free shipping” promo. Free shipping is a powerful incentive for customers who may be hesitant to complete their purchase because of additional shipping costs. 

Consider offering free shipping on all orders or for purchases above a certain value. This strategy removes a potential barrier and shows customers the convenience and affordability of shopping online.

Get Expert Help With Your Ecommerce Promotions

At Human, we’re passionate about helping ecommerce brands reach and surpass their business goals.

Allow us to help you run your ecommerce email marketing campaigns and year-round promotions. Whether you need guidance developing promotion calendars, creating emails, ads and website banners, or tracking and measuring promotion success, Human has you covered.  

If you’d like to learn more about our tried and tested email and ecommerce marketing strategies, let's chat!

Topics: Ecommerce Marketing | Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)