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Christmas in July: An Ecommerce Guide to Promotional Success

By: Eric Hatzenbuhler
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While June and July can bring sunshine and ice cream, your ecommerce business may be experiencing the dog days of summer. It’s been months since the end of the holiday rush and the consumer rush of Black Friday feels like a lifetime away. So, how can your business keep customers engaged and revenue coming throughout the year? Creative promotions.

Why promotions matter

Promotions help maximize your consumer engagement throughout the year by offering shoppers new reasons to visit your store and different ways to spend their money. In addition to giving new customers a reason to take the purchase plunge, consistent merchandising and promotions that support your product mix also give loyal customers reasons to come back again and again. This matters because it is much easier, and cheaper, to maintain existing customer relationships vs. acquiring new customers.

As shoppers return to your store for multiple visits, they expect variations throughout their touchpoints. Just as most brick and mortar stores regularly change displays, it is important to ensure there is new content to keep shoppers’ attention and continue driving engagement. Our most successful clients set a defined process around where, when and how they update their online store images, banners, marquee and featured products to create variation.

Establish your calendar

As mentioned earlier, taking advantage of existing promotional dates is an easy way to promote your business, driving new customers and bringing existing ones back for more. While it is vital to plan specific offers around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, using existing holidays throughout the year allows you to use precise messaging and can help increase sales in lower performing months. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Super Bowl Sunday or Mother’s Day, creating clever messaging and relating the day to your business can provide a nice additional boost to your online store.

If you’re having a tough time finding a holiday that fits your business, simply create your own! In 2017, Amazon’s Prime Day saw a sales increase of more than 60% compared to the previous year and sales from that day alone outperformed Amazon’s 2016 Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Dunkin’ Dounts saw its sixth highest day of foot traffic ever on National Doughnut Day in 2017. Establishing your own promotional holiday with consistent messaging and a consistent time of year can help turn a valley into a peak on the chart.

2018 Holiday Promotions Calendar

Define your goals

As is important with any idea, defining goals prior to any promotion is a must. How can you determine the success of a certain promotion if you aren’t sure what metric to measure? Clear goals lead to success. Some examples of goals include:

  • Drive sales
  • Acquire emails for future marketing initiatives
  • Increase brand awareness and information sharing
  • Build relationships with existing customers

Set specific, measurable and attainable goals. When setting goals you should consider the following.

  1. Include precise dates
  2. Define channels you want to track: direct, referral, organic, email, paid or social
  3. Define metrics you want to track: content, lead conversion, visits, click through, conversion rate or revenue

Depending on the type of product you sell, marketers need to either inform, persuade or remind customer about product benefits and features. Following these tips helps your business understand if a promotion was a huge success and, more important, why it was a success and how it can be replicated in the future.

Determine your promotion type

Now that you’ve decided you want to run a promotion, what do you actually do? Here are a few unique ideas to get you started:

  1. Gift with Purchase

Who doesn’t love free stuff? Trick question, everybody loves free stuff. Including a free item or discount with the purchase of another item can have a major impact on sales, but the word “free” can be a bit scary to businesses. Nobody wants to give away a product that costs money and time to manufacture. That sounds like a quick way to fall into the red. However, requiring a minimum purchase price that raises average order value (AOV) or having the “free gift” be a supplemental accessory for a more expensive product can actually increase revenue. This is also a great way to extinguish any excess inventory and is most effective during non-holiday timeframes.

  1. Mystery Flash Sale

The concept of any mystery is quite enticing, but a mystery that also saves me money? Count me in. Mystery Flash Sales entice people to click on an email to reveal their offer or discount. It could be 10% off, 20% off or 50% off, they won’t know unless they click. The discount can even remain hidden until the customer is ready to checkout to get them further upstream in the shopping experience. Even if a customer isn’t in the market to make a purchase, a mystery sales provokes them to investigate what kind of discount they will get. Once you get those customers to your website, they’re one step closer to making a purchase.

  1. VIP Sales

Rewarding your most loyal customers can pay off in a big way. VIP Sales target your top 5-10% of existing customers and aim to give a feeling of appreciation and exclusivity. The best part: this doesn’t necessarily need to be a discount or free gift. It can simply be early access to new products or upcoming sales. These customers are the core of your business. They are likely to purchase multiple times, are cheaper to retain than the cost of acquiring new customers, and are likely to share their great experience with friends and family. Turn your existing customers into raving fans and they will surely reward you.

  1. Other Concepts

Promotional possibilities are endless; some other great ideas include:

  • Flash sale discounts
  • Threshold discounts
  • Buy one, get one (BOGO)
  • Spend $X, Get $Y off
  • Spend $X, Get Y% off
  • Bundle coupons for future orders
  • Sweepstakes or contests
  • Photo contests
  • Referral campaigns
  • Social media contests (likes, shares, etc.)
  • Category discounts (brand, genre, platform)

Align your organization

With so many teams ultimately responsible for various end consumer touchpoints, ensuring a top-down understanding of your goals is critical to providing a cohesive and enjoyable experience for your customers. This includes teams choosing distribution platforms, creating and developing SKUs, allocating product, designing the marketing site and executing marketing strategies. A misalignment in just one of these areas can impact the entire strategy and overall success of your programs. Holding a kickoff meeting with all stakeholders can provide everybody the information needed to run a successful promotion, and allows teams to ask specific questions to ensure everybody throughout the organization is on the same page about goals of your upcoming promotions.

At the end of the day, great promotions bring in new customers and keep existing ones happy. It’s important that you establish a timeframe, define goals, align your organization, and choose the right offer to include in your promotion. Whether it’s maximizing Cyber Monday demand or creating a new holiday to boost sales during the lowest performing quarter, promotions are key to growing and sustaining a successful ecommerce business.

Learn more about how our in-house digital marketing agency, MarketForce, can help develop and execute your ecommerce promotions.