8 Ways to Improve Your Next Ecommerce Promotion for More Conversions

For most ecommerce brands, promotions and sales are the lifeblood of the business. Whether it’s the annual Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale, a 4th of July promo, an annual Friends & Family Event, or even just a weekend flash sale, an ecommerce brand without promos is like a cake without frosting.

What is an ecommerce promotion?

An ecommerce promotion is an event that runs on your ecommerce site. Often synonymous for a “sale”, it can involve discounting your products, but it doesn’t have to. A promotion could also be built around the launch of new products, a contest or giveaway, or other initiatives that generate customer interest and bring new visitors to the site. Promotions need to be marketed on organic and paid channels to get the word out and drive traffic.

Why are promotions important for ecommerce businesses?

Retail (in-store and online) has revolved around promotions for years, most notably around Q4 or other major holidays. But what most don’t realize is that developing a healthy calendar of events around sales and product launches is how ecommerce brands acquire customers and meet revenue goals. Ecommerce businesses should have evergreen marketing running and other tactics to have a continuous flow of traffic into the top of their funnel, but regular promotions are crucial for keeping momentum.

As we mentioned above, not every promotion needs to involve a discount or marked by a holiday. It can be an event unique to your brand or a holiday your business makes up. The important part is that these promotions are planned in advance and placed strategically on the calendar in order to help meet monthly, quarterly, or yearly goals. The best way to plan promotions is with an integrated marketing planner (click to learn more and download a copy of our free template).

Why do many promotions fall short?

Many promotions fall short simply because people do not plan. Despite their importance, it’s pretty typical for ecommerce brands to launch a sale with no real system for converting customers aside from offering a really great deal. Unfortunately that’s not a great method; you’ll need more than a 30% off ad on Facebook to get customers all the way through checkout. A huge part of running a successful promotion is understanding why you’re running the sale in the first place and having a clear strategy for how to make it successful.

We’ll get into that below, but if you’re looking for an in-depth resource on promotional strategy, our Ecommerce Bootcamp may be for you. This is a course where we instruct and guide brands to construct their promotions for the entire year, and it’s especially helpful to have going into Q4. The strategies we outline in this post are just one small part of that course. To learn more about the ecommerce bootcamp, click here.

So in order to have a successful promotion, what else do you need besides a great offer? In this post we’ll walk through 8 things that will help every promotion you run be more successful.

8 Steps to Convert More Customers on Your Website in Your Ecommerce Promotions

Instead of only thinking about what deal to offer (is it a flat discount? Buy one, get one? Gift with purchase?), you’ll need to zoom out and consider the entire customer journey. Here are 8 steps to help you create a strategic, well-rounded, and successful promotion:

1. Start with Your Audience

Always start by looking at the customer first. It’s essential to understand who they are and what they need, and then create a sale that addresses those needs. This will inform the messaging and creative for your site and even the type of discount you use. For example, your customers might love a great deal, in which case a flat percentage discount would be compelling. However, if your customers don’t care much about the money but really value quantity, a gift with purchase or buy one, get one might be more exciting for them.

If you haven’t already, we highly recommend exploring who your customers are using an ecommerce customer avatar template. This exercise will help you and your team get on the same page about who your customers are outside of just demographic information, which in turn helps create better experiences for them.

Be sure to check out our free template to guide your thinking as you dig into each avatar’s personality, interests, values, needs, concerns, and more. This sheet will continue to evolve as you learn more about your actual audience through testing marketing, but it will serve as a great guide in the meantime. Use these avatars as a filter for every adjustment you make and event you run to make sure it makes sense for your customers.

Leverage your audience to build hype before promotional activity. This can be done using social media and encouraging shares, or via email marketing. Generating hype really adds clout to the power of instilling FOMO into your potential customer base.
-Matt Janaway, MarketingLabs

2. Sell Your Brand, Not Your Product

The biggest opportunity you have as an ecommerce business is the ability to win your customers’ business for the long haul by selling your brand, not just your product. Creating lifelong brand fans is the key to long-term success. If customers buy into your product but not your brand, you’re closing the sale but not winning the actual customer. That customer can buy a product a lot like yours anywhere else; that’s why if you want them to come back, they need to buy into your brand.

So, the way to win over your customer is to use every opportunity to sell your brand— promotions included. Start doing this by making sure your website experience implicitly builds your brand through your messaging, imagery, warranty or guarantee, customer service, and more. The idea is to make sure your brand’s values and voice are coming through in the customer’s experience. An easy test is to look at your homepage’s hero image, your ad copy, your email design, etc. and ask yourself, “Does this really communicate who our brand is? If we took our logo away, would people still know it’s us? Or does it look and sound like it could come from anyone else?”

3. Be Clear and Make it Simple

This one is simple: clarity increases conversions because confused people don’t buy. With that in mind, message your sale clearly and concisely. Make sure it’s obvious why you’re running the sale, what the offer is, and how they can get the discount. Use clear messaging and CTA buttons to lead the customers where they need to go, rather than make them wander around your site. This path is called the Ecommerce Customer Journey (click here to download a template to nail down what yours looks like).

Another way to increase clarity for the customer is to make your warranty or customer guarantee very clear, as well as customer reviews. Putting these trust building elements right in the customer’s line of vision can really help reduce any barriers to purchase.

You’ll also want to limit the customer’s choices to avoid distraction on their way to checkout. If you have custom products, help customers out by offering pre-designed customizations.

4. Be Prepared to Send Traffic to Your Site

Remember that famous quote from Field of Dreams? “If you build it, he will come.” Sadly, that doesn’t apply to ecommerce sites, even if you’re running a great promotion. The reality is, in the ecommerce world, you will have to send traffic to your site, and oftentimes, you’ll have to pay for it. This could be by way of paid advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Google, or YouTube. You could also use SEO or email marketing or you could work with influencers and affiliates. Whatever your brand uses, you’ll need to plan your promotions with a budget for what you’re able to spend on capturing users and getting them to your site.

5. Work Smart, Thanks to Technology

Years ago, ecommerce folks had to build everything on their stores from scratch and they needed a team of IT people to stay up all night to make sure sales went live without hiccups. Fortunately, that is no longer the case for most ecommerce brands thanks to apps that make life easier. Technology like Shopify Plus and apps such as Bold Discounts have made the actual launch of sales much more simple. This way, you can focus your team’s effort on creating great products and content and connecting with your customers.

For a successful promotion, utilize the power of these apps and don’t reinvent the wheel. If you’re on Shopify, Bold Discounts makes it simple to set up a variety of discounts and upsells on your store. As you use technology to work smarter and not harder, make sure everything you do is just as optimized for mobile as it is for desktop, and make sure your site is as fast as it can be, removing any unneeded apps. Finally, test everything before it goes live! We can’t stress testing your discounts enough.

6. Acquire More Than Just Purchases

Purchases are the goal, but the truth is that most site visitors won’t convert. A really great conversion rate for a site with a lot of traffic is 4-6%. That means at best, 94% of visitors will not buy from you. If you only base your marketing goals on the purchase metric, it’s going to be very difficult to improve that in a systematic way.

The solution is to create a “conversion funnel” that aligns with your ecommerce customer journey and use that to make the most out of all the traffic you send during the promo period. This is simply a list of the micro-conversions along the path to the purchase, for example gathering email signups, pushing people to a product page, getting people to add to cart. When you know what smaller conversions occur that lead to a purchase and you track those, you’ll have a better understanding of what needs to improve in order to increase purchases. This will also allow you to create initiatives or campaigns that are not going after purchases, but are encouraging lower friction conversions such as email sign ups.

7. Measure the Right Metrics

If you’re tracking activity on your site, you need to know which metrics to measure. With Google Analytics so readily at our disposal, it can be easy to get so overwhelmed with data that you end up doing nothing with it. The key is to determine what metrics matter to your business, especially during sale time in order to evaluate what was successful about your sale.

Here are a few metrics to watch closely:

  • Traffic: Watch your levels of site traffic, where they are coming from, and the balance of new vs returning visitors. Typically we try to achieve a ratio of 60% new visitors vs 40% returning.
  • Time on Site: Watch the amount of time visitors spend on your site and on specific pages for a look at engagement.
  • Newsletter Subscribe Rate: Watch this especially if you are using incentivized popups.
  • Add to Cart Rate: Watch how many people are adding to cart versus just viewing the product page.
  • Abandoned Cart Rate: How many people are leaving before completing checkout?
  • Conversion Rate: Watch your store’s conversion rate and how it compares to the conversion rate during non-sale periods. You’ll also want to watch conversion rate by marketing channel, although don’t judge the sole success of that marketing channel based on the conversion rate.
  • Average Order Value: Your goal AOV should be greater than 1.5x your average product price.
  • CLV: Customer Lifetime Value is one of the most important metrics to be aware of. Measure this at different increments (30, 60, and 90 days) to show where your peaks and opportunities are.

8. Always Use Landing Pages

In order for your promotions to really be effective, all traffic from ads, emails, and other marketing should end up on a landing page specific to your promotion. This page will act as a specialized homepage for the audience that lands there. Directing all of your traffic to your actual homepage almost always leads to higher exit rates and lower conversions. That is because your homepage is not meant to help convert site visitors— it’s supposed to act as a routing page to orient the visitor in and then quickly direct them to where they need to go.

Another benefit of a landing page is that you can create more than one for your sale to cater to different types of audiences. Typically the more personalized you can speak to an audience, the better their conversion rate will be.

Using landing pages will also make tracking your paid advertising in Google Analytics much easier, especially for Facebook advertising. Attribution is getting more complicated than ever thanks to new updates with the way user activity is tracked, so thinking ahead with specific landing pages and UTMs will help.

Ready to Make Waves with Your Next Promotion?

Next time you run a sale, these 8 steps will make it as strategic as possible to drive more success. Thinking of your unique customers first and creating an experience that is both clear and compelling will do more than just lift sales— it will plant seeds that grow brand fans and ultimately increase customer lifetime value, which is the secret to long-term ecommerce success.

If you’re looking to level up your ecommerce promotions, check out Metacake’s Ecommerce Promotions Bootcamp! This is a course designed to teach you the systems ecommerce experts use to achieve massive success with every promotion they run. Each of the topics outlined in this post is covered in-depth and you’ll walk away equipped with the knowledge and tools you need to execute your sales with efficiency and to generate revenue all year round. With over ten hours of webinars, Q&A, and additional bonus resources from our team of ecommerce experts, brands of all sizes will find value in this training.


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