How to Run High-Converting Ecommerce Promotions Without Discounts

Written by Dayana Mayfield

Written by Dayana Mayfield

The best ecommerce promotions inspire purchases and deepen the connection customers feel to your brand.

Creating great promotions is more important than ever. US shoppers spend 1 to 44 hours per month shopping online. No wonder the ecommerce industry as a whole is projected to grow to 5.4 trillion dollars by 2022.

Your target audience is basically waiting for you to wow them with a promotion they can’t turn down. 

In this guide, we examine all of the different kinds of ecommerce promotions, and show you how to run a campaign that doesn’t rely on discounts.

The psychology behind ecommerce promotions

Marketing gurus like to harness the power of scarcity. In their webinars and ads they say things like “limited time” and “only fifty spots,” regardless of the truth. 

Ecommerce promotions often utilize the same psychological motivation, just with a lot more class and a lot less cheesiness (we hope).

But consumer behavior is changing. 90% of Generation Z thinks that companies should address climate change, and while savings will always remain an important consumer consideration, it’s no longer the only one. That means you have the potential to run promotions that aren’t just discounts.

Kit Yarrow, who’s been studying the psychology of buying for over 20 years, says that the fear of missing out on bargains was the biggest driving factor in previous decades. People would buy something just to get the bargain, regardless of their financial situation. But now, she says that anxiety-reducing products and those that bring meaningfulness and connection are taking over our emotionally motivated buying habits.

“We’ve seen this big uprising in wanting to do business with companies that meet and that match your values. We call it purpose marketing, and a lot of this is related to a sense of loneliness that people have that they want to feel connected to other people and they want to have experiences instead of just things.”

Dr. Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist and professor emeritus at Golden Gate University in San Francisco

Given this, it no longer makes sense to run ecommerce promotions for the bargain-buyer alone.

You need to consider the needs of more conscious consumers too.

What are the common types of ecommerce promotions?

Let’s take a look at the main types of promotions. Depending on your brand and target audience, you might utilize all of these types of promotions, or only one. For example, a big online retailer might run give back campaigns, sales, discounts, and loyalty rewards. 

While a niche ecommerce brand with only a handful of carefully curated SKUs might opt to run give back campaigns only, foregoing price cuts altogether. 

Check out these ecommerce promotion ideas:

Give back campaigns

A give back campaign is a newer way to promote your ecommerce business. Instead of offering a discount to customers who hit an order minimum, you offer to donate money to the charity of their choice if they hit an order minimum. 

Here’s an example by leggings brand Terez. During Pride Month, they offered to donate $25 to their customers’ charity of choice for every order over $200. 

If you use Givz, you can feature charities that match your brand and the event or holiday on the post-checkout page where customers select a charity. 

Here are the important features of give back ecommerce promotions:

  • Don’t require discounts 
  • Allow you to align your brand with important causes
  • Help increase average order cart value
  • Improve email click through rates when compared with discount emails
  • Cost less, as not all customers select a charity after checkout
  • Can be temporary or ongoing

Sales

And of course, there are good ol’ sales. A sale doesn’t require that the buyer is a repeat customer, or that they hit a minimum cart value. Instead, it’s a collection of items whose price has been reduced, so that shoppers can view all sale items in one place. 

In addition to having a collection of sale items, you might also occasionally run site-wide sales. For large brands, this is common practice during holiday weekends.

Discounts on order minimums

Some products rarely go on sale. American Girl is a great example. To keep their brand special, they don’t discount their core product line, which is of course the dolls. However, to give parents a break, they will occasionally run a savings campaign that gives a percentage off of a minimum purchase.

This type of ecommerce promotion is effective because it can kick shoppers into high gear. If someone has been eyeing an expensive product for a while, this sort of promotion can encourage them to finally complete the purchase. This also reinforces the exclusivity of your brand, and that certain products are always the original price.

Discounts triggered after purchase

Giving a customer a discount after they purchase from you is a smart way to inspire them to buy from you again. Stores big and small will use this kind of promotion. You can print cards with coupon codes in them to place in the order boxes, or you can send a virtual coupon after purchase via email.

Loyalty Programs

Large ecommerce stores will often create loyalty programs to keep their customer base satisfied. This is an especially important strategy for a company that carries other brands’ products. As a wholesaler, you want shoppers to be incentivized to purchase from you, as opposed to visiting smaller brands’ ecommerce websites. 

With free shipping combined with loyalty rewards, you can encourage customers to shop multiple brands in one place (your site). 

When creating your own loyalty program, consider if you want to establish different tiers and if the points or rewards will expire. If you do choose to have rewards expire, make sure to send out plenty of reminder emails to reduce frustration from missing out on them.

Why you should run promotions that aren't just discounts

As you can see, most types of ecommerce promotions in effect today are based on some form of price discounting. That’s because bargain-driven shopping habits have ruled for the past few decades. 

But as purpose- and connection-driven shopping grow, it’s important that your brand doesn’t get left behind. Companies that harness these motivations could experience greater levels of brand loyalty. 

By aligning your brand with causes that matter to your customers, you can improve the perception of your brand and deepen the connection that customers feel. 

But brand loyalty improvements can be hard to measure. 

Fortunately, there’s data to back up discount-free promotions too:

  • A recent H&M campaign using Givz boosted email open rates to 30%. 
  • Periwinkle, a jewerly brand, saw 27% revenue growth, a 20% lift in large orders, and a 5% increase in RPV (revenue per visit) from their give back bampaign.
  • Wagmo, a pet wellness brand, experienced an 11% decrease in their cost per acquisition.

By harnessing the desire to connect and give back, these campaigns not only stand out in crowded inboxes, but they also motivate people to meet minimum order requirements. 

How to run a high-converting ecommerce promotion that does good

To create your own charitable ecommerce promotion, you offer customers the ability to donate to their favorite charities, simply by purchasing from you. This is of course layered on top of your corporate social responsibility efforts to compound the perception of your brand as one that truly does good.

Here are the steps to follow to set up your campaign:

1. Pick the right platform to help you manage the campaign

First, you need the right software. As you might imagine, implementing a give back campaign is complicated. You need to allocate the flat-rate donation fee to those who met the minimum order value. Or, you need to calculate the appropriate amount, if you are donating a percentage of every order. Then you have to vet the charities, and actually donate money to them. 

Doing all of this manually would be a full time job–or several full time jobs. 

Givz offers a post-checkout experience for donating to charity, so it doesn’t affect your optimized checkout process whatsoever. 

With Givz, you can feature your favorite charities on the post-checkout donation page (triggered by qualifying purchases). Plus, customers can search for their favorite charities by name or EIN. 

Look for an ecommerce promotion software with these key features:

  • Doesn’t affect check out
  • Only includes 501c3 organizations
  • Allows customers to choose the charity (no automated donations)
  • Plans and pricing that fairly match your order volumes
  • Makes it easy to feature charities that fit your brand
  • Donates to the charities on your behalf

2. Decide on the minimum order value and give back amount

The next step is to determine the requirements for the campaign. You could donate a percentage of every sale, or you could require a minimum order value. 

Here’s how Antlion Audio explains the details of their ecommerce promotion:

“Anyone spending $90 or more on our site will get $10 to give to any US based charity they want. It’s as simple as clicking a few buttons after checkout. We’ve highlighted some of our favorites, but to be clear: You can literally type in any 501(c)(3) charity you want and support whichever is most important to you.”

Once you’ve decided on the details, loading them into the Givz platform only takes a minute.

3. Set up your marketing (banners, emails, social)

For the campaign to be effective, your customers need to know about it. The post-checkout donation page could serve as your landing page for sharing the details of the campaign. 

You could link to this page from a “Learn More” link anywhere on your website. 

Most ecommerce companies running give back promotions use their banner to call attention to the campaign.

With your website banner set up, it’s time to drive traffic. Use whichever strategies are already working well for your business, and just tweak the messaging. 

So, instead of a social media ad or influencer post that says: “Get 20% off your order of $200+” the copy would say something like:

“Donate 20% of your order of $200+ to charity. We’re spotlighting Save the Redwoods League”

Altogether, these are the most popular marketing channels for driving traffic to your campaign:

  • Organic social
  • Influencer social
  • Paid social
  • Email

4. Turn on the campaign and track results

It’s smart to use whatever marketing channels you usually use, because that way you’ll be able to directly compare the results of a discount-based ecommerce promotion to a donation-based ecommerce promotion. If you attempt new marketing strategies alongside your new campaign type, it’ll be much harder to gauge effectiveness. 

You should be able to experience one or more of these results (depending on your marketing channel and whether the donation requires a minimum order value or not):

  • Higher email open rates
  • Higher email click-through rates
  • Higher email conversion rates
  • Larger cart order value average
  • Higher ad click-through rates
  • Higher ad conversion rates
  • Reduced cost per acquisition
  • Higher proportion of purchases over a certain threshold ($50, $100, or $200 for example)

Whenever possible, you should measure before-and-after snapshots of your marketing campaigns. For example, if you sent out an email last month for a discount based on order value, then you should compare the open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates of that email versus your email for your donation campaign.

Similarly, if you’re running ads, you could compare your click-through rates, conversion rates, and CPA. 

To gauge your average order value and percentage of orders over a certain threshold, you’ll need to compare a two-week or four-week time period where the donation campaign is in effect to a time period with either discounts, or no running promotion. When reviewing time periods, make sure that seasonal sales and volume changes won’t skew the comparisons.

There are so many ways to promote your ecommerce store. The best promotions should increase brand loyalty while bumping up ecommerce sales.

Want to create a give back campaign? Check out Givz

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Givz campaigns cost 75% less than traditional discounts on average