What Do You Do When Sales and Promotions Don’t Drive Business?

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When planning discounts, coupons and promotions to attract more clients, most ecommerce sites generally focus on counting the profits but simultaneously avoid considering many other significant factors.

Consumers however, don’t always take advantage of these deals and, most of the time, aren’t even aware that a promotion is going on. The first question to ask before planning any discount on your ecommerce site is what you want to get out of it. Since acquiring new clients is only half the battle, this strategy won’t ensure the best for your business.

Why promotions aren’t effective in engaging customers

Discounts and promotions typically lower the perceived value of your product. When offering discounts to get your product out the door, customers will often start questioning its value. More than devaluing that specific product during promotion time, you will have sent the message to customers that the item you’re selling was never as valuable as its original price mark. This brings critical repercussions to your entire site, which ultimately puts you at risk of losing credibility in the eyes of your clients.

Additionally, while price cuts may bring a few new customers through the door, focusing solely on them means merchants are forgetting that others have bought the same product at full price. This is likely to give clients a sense of injustice that within a matter of days the product they bought at full price has now been reduced by 50%.  

Luckily promotions, discount and coupons are not the only tools available to build and maintain loyalty for your business. The secret lies in shifting the focus from prices to extra-transactional factors and to build value in these elements.

So, how can you avoid turning non-price-sensitive customers, who don’t mind spending a bit more and are devoted to your brand, into price-sensitive ones, who simply wait for the best promotion you can offer?   

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Solutions that work

Market research & A/B testing

Your target as a business is to increase sales and engage more customers. As a result, the first step should naturally be to expand your product’s offer to guarantee a wider choice to your clients. But where do you start? The key is to evaluate market demand.

Keyword researches and social media trend studies are traditional but obsolete strategies; try pre-selling some items or listing them as out of stock, with requests to be notified when you restock, then sit down and watch the magic happen. You’ll notice how certain items get more attention in terms of orders placed for restock than others when listed ‘out of stock’. These are the products that will eventually sell more.

An effective selling strategy should also include regular usability testing on the website and A/B testing for the prices offered. For a client to gain trust it isn’t necessary to constantly lower prices. A more effective strategy is to understand that the perfect price is always changing and there’s no such a thing as the ‘right price’.

Provide Options

When it comes to ecommerce, the more options the better and as an online retailers, the options you can offer are as varied as your customer base. Every single product can come in different colors and models, customers can view different versions of a certain product and then pick the one the prefer. They key is giving them a sense of control by letting them feel free to choose whatever they want, whenever they want.

Nonetheless, a wider rage of shipping and payment options is what eventually will not only bring more clients but will also guarantee their loyalty to your site. Shipping options could run from standard shipping to overnight. Or you could decide to guarantee free shipping for big orders or lower prices for certain locations.

Options should also be made available when it comes to payment, and the options really are endless. One option is to offer consumers as many options as possible for them to feel completely free to pay in the way they are most comfortable with. This can include more traditional payment methods such as credit cards and PayPal, or more innovative routes such as Bitcoins. Additionally, offering customers to pay in installments will allow your business to meet your clients’ needs and to ensure they come back to your site again in the future.

An interesting solution to paying in installments, for example, is Splitit which allows companies to offer credit card based and interest-free monthly payments at checkout, both online and in store.

Delivery strategy

Delivery is top-priority when it comes to guaranteeing customer satisfaction and increasing sales.

A lack of delivery options, high delivery costs and customer insecurity towards the delivery process are all factors that contribute to unexpected ‘lows’ on e-commerce sites.

Eventually, it all comes down to understanding that a good delivery strategy plays a primary role in the sales process and if you want to increase your online sales you must improve it. One guaranteed way of upping your delivery strategy is to address areas that stop customers from buying. This obviously includes expanding delivery options available based on your client’s requests: you can even use a quick survey to find out whether speed, convenience or cost is most important for your customers.


Always keep in mind that a good delivery strategy is key for turning your buyers into loyal customers so fostering trust is essential. The first few deliveries with a client are crucial in building engagement so make sure to deliver on promises, on time and with all the right products in one parcel.

At the same time, be prepared to deal with problems if something goes wrong. Ensure there is a dedicated customer support section in place on your site and, if needed, build a customer support team that you trust. After all, when something goes wrong, clients want and deserve to feel reassured. Admit mistakes and be sure to offer refunds or a small reward where applicable, to make up for your mistake.

Orders from new clients is the perfect opportunity to set the tone and create a lasting loyal relationship. Be as much creative as possible; add gifts and leaflets to a parcel for example, or be more attentive to branding and packaging.

There’s a reason why promotions and discounts don’t work – time and technology have brought some major innovations that e-commerce sites cannot ignore. There is no such thing as a perfect recipe for increasing sales, but if you don’t want to be left behind, adopt a cohesive approach that combines all of the mentioned strategies to make your client’s happiness a priority. If customer’s engagement comes first, you won’t need to worry about numbers anymore.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.

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