20 Ecommerce Promotions Strategies to Win and Retain Customers


Learn more about our modern, flexible ecommerce platform.

If an ecommerce store is seeing slumping sales or struggling to attract new website visitors, promotional offers can draw in new customers and win existing shoppers back.

From running flash sales to launching limited-edition products, online stores have numerous promotional strategies at their disposal to drive traffic to their website, boost sales, and build an enduring brand presence.

Promotional activities help brands achieve their sales and marketing goals, from driving interest in a new product by offering giveaways to early adopters to offloading slow-moving inventory with a clearance sale. 

20 effective ecommerce promotion strategies

Free samples, personalised offers, and referral incentives can give online shoppers added reasons to choose your business over a competitor. Here are some ecommerce promotion ideas to help you win new customers by adding value.

Influencer and affiliate deals.

Collaborating with heavy-hitting influencers can help brands reach highly engaged, untapped audiences. However, be selective. For a complex niche product, find “micro-influencers” (domain experts with follower counts of 10,000–100,000) aligned with your product.

For example, a well-respected real estate agent can share why your company’s bespoke fragrances are ideal for luxury home stagings. 

An alternative is partnering with affiliates who share links to your products on their platforms. For example, a food blogger might reference your artisanal marmalade in a recipe. Affiliates earn a commission for every sale generated from their personal URL. 

Run UGC competitions.

User-generated content (UGC) includes photos, videos, testimonials, and reviews of your product from real customers. UGC also provides valuable social proof and builds trust.

Run contests on social media encouraging happy customers to submit their UGC in exchange for a reward, such as a gift card, discount on a future purchase, or prise giveaway. These competitions foster a sense of community and provide brands with a wealth of authentic content for marketing purposes. Make sure users tag your brand in their social media posts to drive traffic to your channels. 

Limited-time flash sales.

Flash sales are a high-impact ecommerce marketing strategy designed to drive impulse purchases or convince ambivalent shoppers to pull the trigger. Discounts lasting mere hours or days build a sense of urgency, capitalising on the fear of missing out (FOMO). 

Flash sales are especially effective for clearing excess inventory, launching new products, or boosting seasonal ecommerce sales. 

Social media giveaways.

Encourage social media followers to post new content, like or comment on your posts, or share your content in exchange for free products, exclusive discounts, or other enticements. 

These competitions reward your most engaged followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and other social channels. In return, the business gains increased brand exposure, new followers, and potential customers. 

Clearly outline contest rules. Make sure to avoid spammers (eg: no more than two shares per user per day), promote the contest before launch, and follow up promptly with the winners to distribute prises. 

Abandoned cart incentives.

Every year, cart abandonment costs ecommerce businesses $18 billion in lost sales revenue. Appeal to cart abandoners by sending targeted follow-up emails or website pop-ups with incentives, encouraging them to return and finalise the transaction. 

Discounts, free shipping, and exclusive offers help customers overcome their initial reservations. By implementing abandoned cart incentives, ecommerce businesses can address common reasons for cart abandonment such as unexpected costs during the checkout process. 

Gamified discounts.

Incorporate game-like features on your ecommerce site with interactive promotional strategies that make the shopping experience fun. These gamified discounts capitalise on consumer psychology: curiosity and the thrill of winning, capturing users’ attention, and keeping them on your site longer.

Here are some examples of gamified discounts:

  • Spin-the-Wheel: Invite site visitors to spin a virtual wheel for the chance to win assorted prises, offers, or discounts. It adds an element of excitement and surprise. 

  • Scratch-offs: Ask users to virtually scratch off a surface to reveal a hidden discount or special offer underneath. 

Bundle offers.

Group related items as a package deal at a discounted price to increase average order value and give customers the impression they’re getting more for their money. Bundling complementary items encourages customers to try related products they may not have considered otherwise. 

For example, if you sell cameras, create a bundle that includes the camera, a camera bag, a memory card, and a tripod. This not only boosts sales of the camera but also its accessories and helps maximise revenue per customer. 

Member-only promotions.

If you run a subscription-based business or have a robust loyalty programme, offer members exclusive deals and products, or access to members-only events and programming. 

By creating a sense of exclusivity, businesses incentivise customers to become members, fostering customer loyalty and increasing retention rates. Use member data to personalise ecommerce sales promotions and tailor offers based on individual preferences and purchase history. 

Collaborative promotions with other brands.

Partner with brands that share a similar target audience but offer non-competing products. For example, if your online store sells skincare for teens, partner with a business that sells back-to-school accessories to the same audience. The theme for the campaign could be encouraging teens to look and feel their best before the new semester.

Businesses can partner up on joint marketing campaigns or offers that benefit both parties. For example, social media campaigns, co-branded products, or bundles incorporating products from both brands. 

Themed promotions.

Capitalise on holidays, cultural trends, events, or social causes that resonate with your target audience. For example, during Sustainability Week, you can highlight eco-friendly products, offer discounts on sustainable items, or donate a percentage of sales to environmental causes. 

This can align your brand with a meaningful cause and attract environmentally conscious shoppers. 

Be conscious of social media trends that can drive traffic to your website and social media channels. For example, #ThrowbackThursdays celebrate nostalgia. Brands can bring back popular products from the past or launch nostalgia-themed items (eg: iPhone cases shaped like cassette tapes). This theme appeals to customers’ emotions and encourages them to purchase based on sentimental value. 

Product launch specials.

Generate buzz for a new product with exclusive discounts for early buyers, bundled packages that include the new product, or limited-time offers that create a sense of urgency. 

Build anticipation before the launch with teasers, sneak peeks, and countdowns. Well-timed promotions during the launch period can drive traffic to your store and help increase conversions. 

Offer free shipping.

Free shipping is a major purchase incentive. It lowers the total purchase cost and potentially wins price-sensitive customers from competitors. 

Data from JungleScout’s 2021 Consumer Trends Report found that 80% of U.S. customers expected free shipping on purchases exceeding a certain dollar amount. 

If the business can’t absorb shipping costs, use it strategically during specific promotions such as holiday sales or product launches. 

Display an exit pop-up promotion.

Recapture the attention of website visitors before they bounce with a pop-up window offering a promotion or incentive for them to stay and make a purchase. 

For example: "Wait! Before you go, here's a special treat. Enjoy a 10% DISCOUNT on your entire order! Use code: SAVE10NOW at checkout.”

Design a visually appealing pop-up with vibrant colours, concise text, and eye-catching product visuals. Include a prominent CTA (eg: “Shop Now” or “Claim Your Discount”) that redirects users to the relevant product page or applies the coupon code automatically at checkout. 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale.

The busiest shopping day of the holiday season, Black Friday generated $9.8 billion in online sales in the U.S. in 2023. Meanwhile, Cyber Monday, which occurs the following Monday, has e-retailers offering deep discounts to entice early Christmas shoppers. 

Retailers offer massive promotions, exclusive deals, and special promotions online. Moreover, these events provide an excellent platform for clearing out excess inventory, introducing new products, and boosting overall sales figures to set a strong momentum for the holiday season.

Birthday discounts.

Treat your customers to a free gift or discount on their birthdays. These special perks make customers feel valued and appreciated. 

Additionally, birthday discounts create a sense of urgency and excitement around the customer's special day. Shoppers may wish to treat themselves and explore products they may not have otherwise considered. 

Finally, birthday discounts incentivise customers to share their birthdates and other information, providing ecommerce businesses with valuable data for targeted marketing. 

Highlight special deals on the homepage.

Call out special promotions on the homepage so that new and returning visitors see them as soon as they land on the ecommerce website. Eye-catching banners, carousel sliders, or dedicated sections draw the focus, ensuring potential customers are aware of ongoing promotions right from the start. 

Showcasing special deals on the homepage encourages impulse buying. Visitors who might be casually browsing are more likely to make a purchase if they see attractive discounts or limited-time offers.

Referral incentives.

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most trusted forms of advertising. Better yet, it’s virtually free — although businesses should set up “WOM triggers” to encourage happy customers to share their opinions widely. 

Create a win-win situation by rewarding customers who refer friends and family to your online store.

Provide loyal customers with a unique referral link or promo code, which they can then pass on. When someone makes a purchase or completes some other action using this link (eg: signing up for an event), the referee becomes eligible to claim their reward. 

Offer tiered rewards commensurate with the number of referrals. This gamifies the process, incentivising customers to refer more people in exchange for bigger prises. 

Provide free samples.

Businesses can offer free samples to acquaint customers with a new brand or product, or to drive sales of slow-moving goods. Letting customers experience the product first-hand with no obligation to purchase lets them assess the item’s quality and builds trust in the brand. 

Samples are also a powerful tool to induce customers to switch brands. For example, if someone has used the same facial moisturiser for years, they have no incentive to try a new product. By offering a free sample and providing a positive experience, customers may be moved to switch brands. 

Deliver tailored product suggestions.

Personalised product recommendations match shoppers with products they’re most likely to find helpful or enticing based on their browsing habits and purchase history. 

Recommendation algorithms should strike a balance between matching user intent and exposing the customer to novel products and best-selling items (upselling and cross-selling). Intelligent recommendation algorithms can decipher meaning from unclear search terms, spelling errors, and synonymous keywords. 

Feature personalised product recommendations on the homepage, email marketing promotions, product landing pages, and even retargeting ads reminding customers of items previously viewed, wishlisted, or added to the shopping cart. 

Buy one, get one free.

Buy one, get one free (BOGO) offers provide value-for-money, particularly for price-sensitive buyers. BOGO offers are ideal for frequently used items that can be purchased in bulk, such as condiments or cleaning supplies. 

Businesses can clear inventory, introduce new items, or boost sales for underperforming goods. BOGO promotions foster a sense of reciprocity, as customers feel they are getting a generous offer, potentially strengthening brand loyalty. 

Grow from $1 million to $100 million

Explore our collection of resources filled with actionable strategies, expert insights, and everything you need to increase ecommerce sales.

Access Now

Tips for implementing effective promotions

Promotional campaigns must be planned thoroughly, with clear campaign objectives and attention-grabbing messaging. 

Define clear promotion objectives.

Every promotional campaign should be guided by well-defined business objectives that are realistic and time-bound. Common goals include increasing sales, expanding market reach, enhancing brand awareness, boosting customer engagement, encouraging repeat business, or launching a new product successfully. 

By establishing specific numerical targets — such as boosting sales by 10% in the next two months or acquiring 150 new customers — businesses can measure the success of their promotional initiatives objectively. Online stores must evaluate the ROI of every promotional campaign, as they come at a cost to the business. 

Ensure clear messaging.

Ensure customers understand what the promotion entails, how to claim the offer, and any conditions attached. 

For example, if shoppers only become eligible for discounts after exceeding a certain order value, make sure this is clearly stated to avoid confusion and frustration (eg: “Spend $50 or more to get a 10% discount” or “Discounts for in-store purchases only”). 

Ambiguous or misleading language leads to website bounce and/or cart abandonment and can damage the brand’s reputation. 

Monitor inventory levels.

Stock can move fast during promotional periods. Closely monitor inventory to keep up with demand and avoid overselling. Stockouts can lead to lost sales, customer dissatisfaction, and potentially harm brand reputation.

By monitoring inventory levels in real time and implementing efficient restocking strategies, you can minimise the risk of running out of products and maintain a positive customer experience. Use historical data from past promotions of a similar nature to anticipate demand for ongoing campaigns. 

Test and optimise promotional offers.

Identifying the most profitable promotional strategies is an iterative process. Moreover, customer segments may respond differently to certain offers. 

For example, younger shoppers might appreciate freebies or sales promotions for novelty items, while a shopper who is a parent might prefer bulk discounts on necessities. A/B testing lets you compare different strategies for conversion rate optimisation. 

Don’t focus singularly on sales data. Observe click-through rates, conversion rates, and average order value to understand the impact of your promotions on sales and customer engagement. By tracking these metrics, you can identify trends and areas for improvement.

Leverage automation tools.

Automation tools are indispensable for running promotional campaigns. Here are a few ways to use them:

  • Send automated emails to segmented email lists with personalised offers (eg: 20% of all items your most loyal customers; 10% off select items for first-time buyers). 

  • Schedule and post social media updates to announce the promotion. 

  • Run personalised dynamic ads that automatically retarget visitors who bounce from your website by showing them personalised product recommendations. 

  • Automatically monitor inventory and reorder items low on stock. 

  • Track customer interactions on your website during a promotion to gauge campaign efficacy. 

Common promotional challenges to watch out for

Low ROI, missed targets, and other setbacks can reduce campaign effectiveness. Avoid these common missteps. 

Over-discounting and eroding profit margins.

While discounts can drive short-term sales, excessive and frequent discounting erodes profit margins. When customers become accustomed to discounts, they may hesitate to make purchases at regular prices, causing a revenue slump.

Businesses can consider offering discounts strategically, such as during specific seasons, holidays, or for loyal customers, rather than constantly relying on widespread, deep discounts. 

Focus on providing value through other means, such as exceptional customer service, unique product offerings, or exclusive member benefits to avoid competing on price. Track the cost of discounts, customer acquisition costs, and the overall impact on profit margins. 

Setting unrealistic promotion goals.

Unrealistic goals, such as expecting a sky-high increase in sales within a short timeframe or aiming for an exceptionally low customer acquisition cost, can lead to disappointment and misallocated resources. 

Set goals based on thorough market research, historical data, and a realistic understanding of the target audience and industry benchmarks. 

For instance, a SMART goal would be: "increase online sales by 20% over the next quarter by targeting X customer segment with tiered promotions commensurate with customer lifetime value.” 

Companies must be vigilant about complying with consumer protection laws regarding advertising and data privacy. Bait-and-switch advertising, false marketing claims, and misrepresented pricing can lead to legal disputes and fines, eviscerating the business’s reputation. 

Businesses must provide clear refund and return policies and deal with consumer complaints promptly and fairly.

Ecommerce personalisation requires access to consumer data. However, don’t go overboard. Obtain proper consent for collecting and using personal information, safeguard personal data, and inform customers how their data will be used.

Request a Demo

Schedule time with us to walk through the BigCommerce platform.

Request a Demo

The final word

Promotional campaigns are an indispensable tool to help ecommerce brands acquire new customers and encourage repeat business. 

From discount codes to product bundles and UGC competitions, businesses have numerous opportunities to promote specific products and boost sales. However, promotion ideas require careful planning and a thorough understanding of the target audience.

Determine what messaging and promotion types will resonate with your customer base. Calculate the potential ROI of the promotion to avoid over-discounting and eroding the company’s bottom line. Effective promotions have lasting benefits for businesses, including an expanded customer base, increased brand recognition, and repeat business. 

FAQs about ecommerce promotions

Browse additional resources