Go get 'em. By Big Cartel.

Using Discounts to Drive Sales

You’ve got the basics of your shop squared away, but some potential customers may need a little nudge. Now’s the perfect time to run a sale to build excitement about your brand.

A sale doesn’t just get your loyal followers to place an order, it also encourages them to tell their friends about your brand. You’ll unload inventory, enjoy a little influx in cash, and keep your business healthy during the slow months. Read up on our advice, and you’ll be a pro at strategic selling in no time.

Keep things easy

There are two main ways to run a sale: create a discount code, or mark down the price on one or more products. Decide what your goals are, and let that guide how you set things out. Here are some scenarios you may be considering.

A discount code is great if you’re:

  • Encouraging folks to sign up for your newsletter
  • Promoting a specific category in your shop
  • Lowering prices for a limited time, like during the holidays
  • Rewarding your most attentive social media followers
  • Turning a one-time purchase into a repeat customer
  • Tracking visitors who visit your site after picking up a card at an event

A price reduction is great if you’re:

  • Trying to move slow-selling products
  • Discounting very few items
  • Promoting a sale to all visitors, not just your loyal followers

Think about how your customers find you, and what your strengths are when deciding which way to go. If your visitors find you via web searches or Pinterest, they’ll likely miss a discount code that’s only mentioned on your social media, but love seeing an announcement about your prices being lowered (“25% off everything! No code required!”). In contrast, if you’re trying to reward followers while keeping the lower prices quiet, a discrete discount code is your best bet.

How much is just enough?

When deciding how much to discount for a sale, remember that it has to work with your pricing. The idea behind a sale is that you’re making a little less money on each order, but making up for it in volume. But don’t offer a discount so deep that you’re losing money - make sure you can afford to stick around!

So now that we’re sure you’re covering your costs, what’s the right discount to offer? Think of it from the perspective of a shopper - what convinces you to place an order when you’re looking around?

Some general guidelines:

  • 10-15% sweetens the deal for your loyal fans. Add a discount code to your order confirmation emails to keep customers coming back.
  • 20-30% will get people clicking “Add to Cart.” Try this on social media to seal the deal with window shoppers.
  • 40+% is the get-them-before-they’re-gone discount. Save this for Black Fridays or discontinued items: special occasions that don’t last long.

You can also offer an ongoing discount like free local pickup. It’s the rare win-win-win: You might convince a buyer who’s on the fence, you get to meet your fans face-to-face, and you (and the buyer) save on shipping costs and waste.

discount-nightday

How long, how far

So is there a magic amount of time that works for a sale? After all, you want it to be long enough that people have a chance to hear about it, but short enough to add a sense of urgency. Usually, around one week is just about right.

It’s important to keep promoting your discount for the duration of the sale! You’re catching the nanny who can only check his email on Tuesdays, the parents who have time to shop once the kids are dropped off at summer camp on Thursdays, and the superfan who’s waiting til she gets paid on Fridays. So schedule that newsletter, line up some Instagram-friendly photos, and get ready to show off each of the products that are now available at killer prices.

Unless there’s a slow selling product that you’re just wanting to get off your shelves and in to your customers’ loving arms, don’t have a sale that never ends. An endless sale just lowers the percieved value of your items.

Pro-tip: Send out a reminder with the discount code (if applicable) when your sale has just a few hours remaining. The procrastinators sometimes need a “last chance” warning! Twitter and Instagram Stories would be just about perfect for this.

Play it again, Sam

Was your first sale a success? That’s what we like to hear! It may be tempting to create another discount right away to keep the party going, but let’s talk about strategy first.

Have you ever noticed that big clothing chains promote a new sale every few days? In some cases, they’ve created a vicious cycle: they see an increase in orders when they mark down prices. They love that increase in orders, so they start a new sale shortly after and do it all over again. It’s exciting for a while, but then customers realize that if they miss one discount, another will be offered soon. That’s the moment when the store has lost the sense of urgency that a limited-time discount provides. Now not only do they see lower sales numbers than during that first sale, but many of their customers won’t purchase anything at full price.

Here’s the lesson: Offer sales rarely so shoppers don’t become numb to them, and so they don’t undermine your standard pricing.

That being said, there’s no magical frequency that’s guaranteed to work best. Once a month is probably often enough, but try things out and see what’s right for you - some people do just one or two big discounts per year, some do more.

One exception to this: Offering a discount code for returning customers is great any time! It’s more exclusive, so you don’t run the risk of discount-fatigue. Try including one in your order confirmation email and see how many shoppers come back!