That’s right, even in the age of Big Data and refined targeting tactics, the good ol’ special offer remains an incredibly effective tool for increasing volume and revenue.
Why? Largely because of human psychology. While tools like variable pricing can be powerful in many situations—such as when competing on shopping engines—they sometimes fail because there is no overt payoff for the consumer. Ultimately, even while shopping digitally, people like rewards; they want to clearly see that they are receiving a discount, or an unexpected gift, or something else that makes them feel good.
Of course, not all offers are created equal. Some e-commerce enticements are much more effective in boosting conversions and/or average spend. In particular, these five tactics have proven over time to be a big hit with customers:
1. X% Off on Next Purchase – Offering a discount on a subsequent purchase is a true win-win for everyone. For the customer, there’s the feeling that they’re getting a valuable reward that can be cashed in later. For the business, the offer encourages future visits and provides opportunities for reminders and upsells (i.e., emails suggesting that the person use their discount). Moreover, if the customer doesn’t come back to redeem the offer there’s no harm done—the initial sale went through at full price and the business doesn’t have to take a smaller profit (or even loss) later.
2. BOGOF – The buy one, get one free offer is probably as old as commerce itself. There’s good reason for that. The core appeal of BOGOF is simple: the customer gets something they already like and/or need. Also, it’s easy to understand and the payoff feels substantial (there’s a whole extra thing, for free!). The key here is your profit. The offer tends to work best with either low-priced products where you are willing to take a small loss in order to make a larger sale, or with high-margin products where even cutting the price in half is still worth it.
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3. Free Accompanying Product – The free accompanying product is another win-win for everyone. Customers like it for the same reason they like BOGOF offers: they get a real thing for free and it’s simple to understand. For businesses, this offer has an advantage over BOGOF because the accompanying product can be much less expensive. A good example here is cosmetics stores, which often offer free trial-size gift samples with almost every purchase. These “gifts” make consumers happy and cost the retailer next-to-nothing (or actually nothing, since they’re often supplied by manufacturers trying to build interest).
4. Seasonal, Holiday, and Special-Occasion Discounts – Celebratory discounts are another classic technique, and for good reason. After all, these are the times where people are most likely to spend on products beyond what they need on a day-to-day basis. The issue here is competition. Offering discounts around major holidays and shopping days is effective, but everyone else is doing it at the same time so it can be difficult for to connect with consumers. So what’s the solution? In part, it’s to be on point with your holiday messaging. However, you should also make offers around special occasions where there is less competition. In particular, targeting days that are important to a specific consumer (birthday, anniversary, etc.) is highly effective. The key, of course, is data: you need to know the dates in order to be able to make the offer, which is why you should use every available opportunity to collect this sort of information.
5. Free Shipping – Finally, there’s free shipping, which remains an incredibly effective e-commerce offer. Consumers really, really, really like free shipping. Part of the appeal comes from its simplicity, and part comes from removing the largest e-commerce barrier (needing to have a product delivered). In fact, free shipping often gives digital outlets a clear advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers; for no cost, it takes the hassle out of needing to go to a store to make a purchase. One thing to keep in mind is that while all demographic groups respond well to free shipping offers, some are especially receptive. For example, a survey of U.S. consumers conducted by eMarketer earlier this year found most e-commerce shoppers over the age of 46 would rather get free shipping than a percent-off offer:
Ultimately, with all of these offers, it’s important to keep in mind two things: First, they’re not mutually exclusive; and second, the effectiveness of each varies from consumer to consumer. In other words, to see a big boost in revenue you’ll need to experiment with different mixes of tactics until you discover what connects best with your audience segments.
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