The Secret to Running Promos on Shopify Plus without Breaking Your Store

Let’s start by clarifying that this is not a post outlining marketing strategies for running promos (although you can find tips for that here). Today’s post is a technical one about how to seamlessly run promotions in Shopify Plus, without creating extra work for yourself or your team. You’ll learn our process for launching promotions for ecommerce brands of all sizes, which hinges on one tip that’s critical for pulling off promos without any issues.

What Site Changes Are Needed During a Promotion?

The site changes that need to occur during a promotion or sale will vary depending on your brand, your site’s structure, and the type of sale you’re running. But there are a few elements that we recommend updating for any sale you run.

The most obvious is the homepage. Your site banner (or hero image) should change to message the sale and include a call to action button that links to a collection for visitors to start shopping. We also recommend an announcement bar with text announcing the sale appear at the top of the site, and stick for each page. A well-designed pop-up will also help get their attention. All of these changes are necessary to orient users who land on your site after seeing your promo announced in paid ads or email marketing. If they arrive at the site and the promo is not messaged there, they will either be confused or not interested.

If the promotion involves a discount, you’ll also have to decide whether you’ll use a manual discount code, an automatic discount code, or if you’ll manually mark down products. In the case of a discount code, make sure that code is clearly displayed all over the site— in the site banner, the announcement bar, even on the product pages if possible.

More complicated promotions such as a gift with purchase or “buy more, save more” deals may require apps on your store. Be sure to test these in advance to avoid customer complaints when the promo begins.

The Key to Running Successful Promotions

With all of these changes in mind, Shopify is unique in how it enables you to actually launch these promotions. The key to running successful promotions is the usage of Shopify themes for theme versioning.

What is Shopify Theme Versioning?

Shopify uses themes in your store to show the front end of your website. There are multiple versions of your theme in the admin. When you want to make a change to your site, you should duplicate the live theme, make changes in the duplicate version, and then push it live once it’s ready.

However, many people make updates to their live theme when running promotions, such as updating their hero image and announcement bar. This may work for very simple promotions with limited changes. But for fast-growing brands running promos across multiple days with different store elements changing throughout, there are too many adjustments made throughout the promotion to just stick with the live theme.

Benefits of Using Theme Versioning for Promotions

The solution is to have a separate theme for each promotion, or each phase of your promotion (if you’re adjusting messaging to announce 24 hours left, last chance, etc.) With separate themes, you can set up your promotions well in advance and be extremely creative with those events. Then you just push the applicable theme live when the time comes. Or better, you schedule and automate when the various themes go up or down using Launchpad.

You could even change the entire site for a single day promotion and not lose any work or time on your baseline theme – easily! Using duplicate themes for your promotions also allows you to version your store so you don’t lose any theme changes or website updates while you’re running a promotion. On top of that, you can continue your scheduled dev work on your baseline theme (the non-promotional state of your store) without having to wait for the promotion to be over. If you have a dev team that uses something like a repository, they can keep working even when you’re running promotions.

Finally, with this type of theme versioning, you can have multiple people working on your promotion at the same time and preview your promotion themes for approval well in advance. If you’re on Shopify Plus, you can even schedule your themes to go live so you don’t have to be up at midnight to manually make the change. We go into this in more depth in our ecommerce promotion bootcamp.

6 Steps for Launching Promotions on Shopify Plus Using Theme Versioning

So, practically speaking, what are the steps to running a promotion like this on Shopify?

1. Plan Your Promotions

Use your integrated marketing planner (a.k.a. marketing calendar) to plan every aspect of your promotions. This is absolutely critical, especially if you’re running complicated promotions that span multiple days. The marketing calendar will act as a roadmap for what is happening and when for all members of your team.

2. Identify Site Elements That Will Be Affected

Think through your promotion’s logistics, messaging, and creative. Where will your site need to change for this promotion? An entire homepage takeover? Will there be a hero image and announcement bars linking to a sale collection? Entry pop-ups to collect email addresses? Will messaging change on different days throughout the promotion?

Identify how and when these elements will change and then map this out on your marketing calendar.

3. Define Promotion Phases

Based on the timing of the theme elements that need to change, define the different promotion phases. For example, if you’re running a “Deals of December” promo where the discount or offer changes throughout the week, you’ll need different theme versions throughout the life of your promotion. A basic rule is to use a different theme for each time you want to change site elements.

4. Create Your Promotion Themes

Duplicate your baseline theme (the most up-to-date, non-promotional version of your store) for each of the promotion phases. Then make the necessary changes to the creative in each theme. Make sure to label all of your promotion themes clearly so there isn’t any confusion on the updates each theme contains.

5. Review Each Theme & Get Approvals

Review each version using preview links for each theme. With these preview links, you can essentially test run your promotion in advance, and it’s always helpful to have someone outside of the marketing team review these themes with a fresh eye.

6. Schedule Your Themes

Schedule your promotion themes to be published. This is a feature of Shopify Plus (and one of its main benefits). Using Shopify’s Launchpad you can schedule themes to go up and down at specific times. You can set it and forget it. Without Shopify Plus, you’ll need to publish promotional themes manually. When the promotion is over, you go right back to your baseline theme with no headache or downtime. Simple.

Ready for a Seamless Promotional Experience?

It’s that simple. Utilizing theme versioning is your ticket to running promos on Shopify Plus like a pro, without ever breaking your store (assuming you test everything before it goes live). Even for complex and critical promotions like those for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can prepare everything in advance so you can spend more of your valuable time on paid ads or email marketing— or enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. The days of chaos and lost sleep over running promotions are over. Go forth and conquer your sales!


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