Using Promotions To Drive Sales

Published November 23, 2021
Last updated November 23, 2021

Sales promotions are a great way to boost business for your company in the short term, and turn one-off customers into repeat buyers in the long term. But what types of sales promotions should you consider? And do they really work to attract new customers?

What are sales promotions?

Sales promotion techniques range from buy one get one free offers to bulk buy deals. A sales promotion is an attempt by a business to sell: that is, increase sales, encourage existing customers to buy a new product or service, or engage new customers with your brand. They’re typically limited to a short period of time to signal urgency and encourage customers to buy your products fast before they miss out.

Do sales promotions really work?

Customers are always on the lookout for offers. A recent survey in the UK found that 76% of consumers actively look for special offers and promotions, whilst another found that just 6% of consumers did not find promotions to be a good way to try new products.

The data shows that the majority of consumers believe that sales promotions are a good way to test out new products and services, and are actively seeking offers. That’s a huge market of potential customers for you to reach with carefully planned sales promotion activities.

Aren’t promotions counter-productive?

It can seem, especially for small businesses starting out, that offering sales promotions is likely to do your business more harm than good. After all, by offering your customers a discount on your products, aren’t you shortchanging your business?

The key is to be smart about what type of promotions you offer, and when. When done correctly there are many advantages to sales promotions, such as:

  • Helping your brand to stand out
  • Attracting new customers
  • Retaining long term customers
  • Speed up the sales cycle by targeting top-of-the-funnel consumers
  • Offering an opportunity for cross and up-selling
  • Allowing excess or older stock to be sold quickly
  • Free up space for new products

Types of sales promotions

There are many different types of sales, and you may choose to opt for different ones at different times, depending on your goals. Here are some of the most common promotions and techniques:

Loyalty programs

A loyalty program is a great way to engage first-time buyers and turn them into loyal customers. It’s also a way to make consumers take notice of your brand in a digital landscape that’s awash with competition. McKinsey explains the popularity of loyalty programs in the following way: “With the move to digital over the last ten years, consumers are spending more and more time on their phones and various digital channels. This makes it much easier to access the consumer, but there is also a lot more noise. Brands are trying to figure out the right way to break through that noise and develop a relationship with the consumer.”

So why are loyalty schemes the solution to cut through this noise? Because they are one of the most effective sales promotions out there. Accenture found that 57% of consumers spend more money with brands they’re loyal to.

Flash sales

Flash sales offer products at a reduced price for a limited time period, creating a sense of urgency. Not only do customers feel like they’re getting a bargain, but it also gives your business a great opportunity to sell last season’s stock, make room for new inventory, and break even on products that haven’t sold as well as expected. Customers love a bargain, with Statista finding that 76% of shoppers look out for special offers and promotions.

Free shipping

Free shipping is one of the most important tactics for increasing sales, whether it’s offered as a short term promotion on all purchases, or when customers spend over a certain amount. Digital Commerce 360 found that free shipping is the most important factor for customers when deciding whether to make a purchase, and Send Cloud found that nearly three out of four UK online shoppers will add extra items to their basket to make up the threshold for free shipping.

Coupons

Over half of all UK shoppers (55%) have used coupons within the last 12 months. That means there’s a huge potential market of customers waiting to take advantage of a discount code or coupon for your product. Email is one of the best ways to offer coupons to customers, and it allows for a high degree of personalisation, sending offers that are in line with customers’ past browsing or spending habits.

How to measure the success of promotions

Every time you run a sales promotion, you should monitor your sales data before, during and after to ensure that you have findings to review and learn from for your next event.

Set KPIs

Generally, the goal of any promotion is to increase sales and revenue, but it’s important to set out metrics against which you can measure success. Are these the only metrics you’ll measure against, or will you also look at factors like profits, sales lift, ROI and sales volume? Will you be looking at less tangible metrics too, such as brand perception and customer satisfaction?

Track the data

If you’re offering promotions across multiple channels, such as in-store, online and via third-party sellers, it can be difficult to understand what’s the most effective in helping you to meet your goals. By setting KPIs before launching any promotions, you can better segment and track the data to get the full picture.

Understand what tools you need to track the data and ensure it’s set up correctly - enlist help from experts in each of the tools if you don’t have the know-how in-house to do so. It’ll save you a headache when it comes to downloading and reporting on the data.

Analyse

There’s no point in tracking data without reviewing it. Rather, it should help you to build out a picture of whether you achieved your goals with the sales promotion, and whether there is anything you should do differently next time. If your promotions went well, you should be able to see which channels were most effective at boosting sales - these are the ones to focus on next time. Equally, if the promotion didn’t go as well as planned, the data will help you to determine areas for improvement.

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