Sales & Promotions for E-commerce #ecomchat – Key Points

November 20, 2012

This week’s #ecomchat was on E-commerce Sales & Promotions – how to use these tactics as part of your online marketing (on-site and off-site) program.

Discounts and promotions are a long established part of marketing but how they are used varies significantly. Interestingly, some brands perceive discounting as damaging to brand reputation and don’t permit anyone associated with their brand to use discounting to drive sales. This is typical of luxury brands where brand perception is of paramount importance.

Given the wide range of opinions regarding how best to integrate sales & promotions into e-commerce plans, we thought it would make an interesting topic for discussion and we were right!

Summary of E-commerce Sales & Promotions #ecomchat comments

Below is a summary of the key discussion points. For a full download of the chat session, run a search on the hashtag “#ecomchat” in Twitter.

Question 1 – Which types of online sales/promos work best, and what are the myths & pitfalls?

  • @BennaP raised an important point – important that promotions attract the right type of customer, so think about the long-term impact of promotional activity.
  • Interesting ‘exception’ from @danbarker – accidentally acquired a lot of customer from hotukdeals, so segmented this audience and then targeted with deal stock offers only via email. Key learning – if you have a relevant offer, then you can make promotions work.
  • Discounting is no longer a differentiator – people are used to discounts and promotions – so you have to think carefully about what type of promotions will add the most value to the target audience. @DanielJTruman explained that old tricks like “% off over spend threshold” may have less impact as customers are more savvy.
  • The importance of usability for entering voucher codes was raised by @timlb – avoid using voucher codes wherever possible if the discount can be automated but if you do use them, ensure the voucher code box doesn’t distract from the conversion path or put off customers who aren’t eligible.
  • Important to align sales channels with brand positioning – don’t execute promotional activity that contradicts your brand values i.e. high end brands wouldn’t necessarily want to be associated with cashback sites.
  • A common mistake is to devalue a promotion by trying to make it sound better than it is. @DanielJTruman gave the example of bucket discounts like “Up to 50% off” where only 1 product has the full 50% off – this can be misleading and put customers off.
  • @cpbishop discussed the importance of using data to help make decisions regarding sales & promotion targeting. From experience, issues when assessing the incremental value of leads from sales activity – don’t just look at new customer acquisition, look at impact on spend levels and lifetime value.

Question 2 – What are the big ‘must do’ activities ecommerce sites should do before/after a big sale?

  • Absolutely essential to ensure that off-site marketing content is aligned with on-site landing pages and messages. For example, if you are offering a site-wide free delivery offer, ensure this is carried through across all pages and into the checkout.
  • @DanielJTruman echoed this with the comment that PPC tags must be changed to match with promotions – take advantage of strong offers by reflecting this in the ad copy.
  • Companies must challenge the assumptions they have when considering sales activity. For example, @cpbishop quoted research that found only 8% of respondents felt brands who run promotions degrade their brand.
  • @therustybear suggested that brands should make sales personal – not just the sales experience but after sales as well. Discounting shouldn’t affect level of customer service.
  • Recommendation from @danbarker is to have a checklist for each stage of a sale – that helps you with planning. @timlb elaborated explaining that the checklist should include technical stuff e.g. capability of systems to handle traffic spikes and increased load, addressing inefficient processes that soak up database memory.
  • Key activity after a sale is to measure the impact, which means knowing what KPIs you want to measure. @poakley suggested new customers acquired, subsequent purchase frequency and value.
  • Also important to review sales impact across different marketing channels – look at the acquisition costs – which channels drove the lowest acquisition costs?
  • It’s a good idea to flag in the customer database the customers that were acquired via sales activity – you can then track over lifetime and compare to non-sale customers. @cpbishop quoted the stat that people who use “deal” websites are expected to spend £317.97 more than non-users over 12 months.
  • Great tip from @timlb – If you don’t have one, start a ‘Christmas book’ & ‘Sale book’ to log lessons for next year. If you already have one, read it!

Question 3 – What can ecommerce sites do to make the most during ‘sales’ & ‘promotions’ times?

  • @DanielMColeman hit the nail on the head with the comment that you must stay on top of out of stock items – whilst limited stock can actually drive conversion as people don’t want to miss out, a sea of out of stock products can put people off.
  • Suggestion from @danbarker is to keep remerchandising landing pages based on what’s selling best and noting ‘most clicked’ products from emails and promoting them more heavily on the website.
  • Make sure you have retargeting in place for people who abandon baskets – give yourself the greatest chance of converting people who have shown interest. This was suggested by @robeasson.

Key take away

Sales & promotions are an established element of e-commerce trading. However, you need to think carefully about who you are targeting and ensure the offer is aligned with their needs and motivations.

It’s also essential that you ensure your website is ready to handle the potential surge in visitors. This means technical planning (ensuring the site can handle the traffic and doesn’t fall over), marketing alignment (ensuring the content on-site accurately reflects the promotional messaging) and internal co-ordination (ensuring all teams are briefed and ready to handle customer enquiries).

Please tune in again next week at 5.30pm UK time – keep an eye out for the announcement of the topic.

Thanks, James & Dan.

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