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Feb 14, 2023 | 17 minute read

20 Creative Retail Promotion Ideas to Entice Both New & Existing Customers

written by Kirsten Aebersold

Everyone loves a good promotion. Whether your target audience is savvy, price-sensitive shoppers or die-hard brand loyalists who jump at every new product launch regardless of cost, every single demographic has a retail promotion idea that moves them to action. 

With the huge variety of ideas available, however, it can be daunting to try to find the right one to fit your brand. 

That’s where Elastic Path comes in. Below, we explore 20 creative retail promotion ideas to help you entice both new and existing customers, no matter what your ideal buyer demands. 

What Are Retail Promotions, and What Can They Do For My Brand? 

Retail promotions come in many flavors, shapes, and sizes, but overall, their aim is to increase sales or encourage new or returning customers to use or try a product or service.
Retail promotions can be announced via free channels such as social media, your website, or over email, or they can be distributed through paid media such as Google Ads, Instagram Ads, or LinkedIn ads. 
If the retail promotion is broadly focused and available to a wide demographic, such as a sitewide discount or a “buy-one-get-one (BOGO)” offer, it can be even more effective to use both free and paid methods to let as many potential customers know about your promotion as possible, all at once. 
No matter what method you choose to tell customers about your promotion, the most effective means usually include the following: 

  • Imagery and/or Video
  • Concise Copy
  • A Compelling Reason To “Act Now” (such as in the case of a limited-time “flash sale”)

Types of Retail Promotions

While the sky’s the limit when it comes to variations on classic and creative retail promotion ideas, overall, they generally fall into 11 major categories. 

These categories range from broad, one-size-fits-all promotions (such as a flat amount or percentage off a purchase) to exclusive promotions only available to a specific demographic, such as followers on Facebook or members of a loyalty program. 

Which idea you choose to implement depends largely on what you want to achieve. For example, if you want to increase repeat purchases or purchases of related items, a “subscribe-and-save” offer or “bundled promotion” might be best. Similarly, if you want to increase your brand presence on social media, a social media giveaway or contest might be your best option. 

No matter what type of customer you hope to entice, one of the following ten categories of retail promotions is sure to fit the bill. 

1. Percentage Discounts

The classic percentage-off deal is arguably the most popular retail promotion idea. 

According to Mike Catania, Chief Technology Officer of PromotionCode.org, storewide percentage offers, even for small amounts, tend to be the most effective. “5% storewide, with few exceptions, will garner more attention and generate more sales than even a 60% off clearance, the next-best option.”

2. “XX Amount Off”

Discounting items by a flat dollar amount has also proved itself as a tried-and-true promotion. 

The effectiveness of amount-based promotions vs. percentage-based ones often depends on the perceived value of the product and the overall price point. For example, for a $25 product, customers might be more enticed by a 40% discount rather than a $10 discount, even though the total discount amount is the same.

3. Buy One Get One (BOGO)

This common promotion can be applied in two ways: either through a “buy one get one free” offer or a “buy one get one x% off.” 

Both of these offers are typically used to move inventory quickly, so if you’ve got lots of stock to clear out quickly, this could be just what you need. 

4. Multi-Buys

Multi-buy promotions, such as  “3 for the price of 2,"  are another effective way to move inventory fast. 

This is especially true for commodities and items customers frequently buy, such as groceries and personal care products. This one likely isn’t going to be a hit for larger items or items purchased infrequently, such as furniture or electronics. 

5. Multi-Save Promotions 

The multi-save promotion includes many variations, including: 

  • Buy and save off the entire sale.
  • Buy and save off specific items.
  • Buy and pay a fixed price.

These types of promotions can be effective for both commodities and specialty items, as they can also combine different types of items. An office supply store, for example, could use this promotion to encourage customers to buy markers and erasers with their whiteboards or to sell ink with reams of various kinds of printer paper. 

6. Conditional Promotions

While similar to multi-save promotions, this idea is a bit more flexible. Instead of just offering discounts, conditional promotions can include options like the following: 

  • Buy and get one or more items free or discounted.
  • Buy and earn loyalty points.
  • Buy and earn a store gift card. 
  • Buy and earn a gift card from a partner store. 

These variations help boost sales without driving down revenue or average transaction value while also encouraging customers to branch out and purchase things that aren’t necessarily discounted. 

7. Free Shipping and/or Free Returns

For an idea that drives conversions, free shipping-type offers are consistent winners. 

This promotion type is most effective when offered as a coupon or when shown with a blanket statement such as “free shipping with all orders over $50,"  to make sure the conditions of qualifying for the promotion are as clear as possible.  

8. Try Before You Buy

Becoming increasingly popular for e-commerce merchants, “Try Before You Buy” helps overcome the objection many online customers have to not being able to touch and try on products before purchasing. 

This promotion type removes this perception of risk and boosts customer confidence when it comes to actually making the purchase.  

9. Gift With Purchase

Consumers love a free gift, and this gives them just that. Nearly 90% of free gift receivers said they were “somewhat likely” to buy more frequently from an online retailer after receiving a gift, according to survey findings cited by Business Wire. Whether you’re looking to move some excess inventory or just want to boost conversions quickly, the “gift with purchase” promotion type delivers on both. 

10. Loyalty/Insider Discounts 

Loyal customers or followers get special perks with this retail promotion idea, which helps build brand loyalty and presence. A study by Forrester shows that when customers feel appreciated, such as through loyalty program perks and benefits, 83% plan to spend more with the brand, 88% plan to stay with the brand, and 87% will advocate for the brand. Couple that with the fact that it costs 5-25x more to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one, and you’ve got a stack of compelling reasons to start or beef up your loyalty program. 

These promotions can range from promo codes sent out only to followers on various social media platforms to an exclusive discount or sale notification delivered via email to a “punch card” type system where customers get a freebie or a discount based on how many past purchases they’ve made. 

11. Lifestyle Discounts 

This classic promotion type offers discounts to members of a specific demographic, usually one that comes with an id of some kind to let them prove it. 

Customer groups for which these kinds of discounts are usually offered include teachers, military personnel, students, first responders, seniors, and children. 

Overall, no matter what type of target audience you’re trying to attract - professionals, Millennials, parents, bargain-hunters, or luxury-seekers - there’s at least one type of promotion that works to entice them to buy. The only question is, how do you break down these categories into actionable promotion ideas? That’s exactly what we’ll cover in our list of 20 creative retail promotion ideas below. 

20 Creative Retail Promotion Ideas

Maybe you’ve tried various promotion ideas before and need some fresh inspiration. Or maybe you’re building a brand-new retail promotion strategy for your business and want to hit the ground running with a combination of efficient ideas. Whether this sounds like you or you fall somewhere in between, our rundown of 20 effective retail promotion ideas is sure to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Google My Business Offer Posts

Google My Business lets businesses create four different types of posts to broadcast their retail promotions: Offers, Updates, Events, and Products.

This promotion type allows your brand to reach customers who come across your promotion via Google Maps and Search, which is, unsurprisingly, often where searchers have the highest intent - and the highest likelihood of becoming customers. 

2. Lifestyle Discounts

Lifestyle discounts typically apply to a particular profession, age group, or demographic. 

Everyone knows about the common types of lifestyle discounts, such as those for teachers, students, veterans, and seniors. However, there are many members of less-well-represented demographic groups that might also turn out to be loyal customers if you offer them a discount or freebie: 

  • First Responders (law enforcement, firefighters, etc.)
  • Medical Staff (doctors, nurses, paramedics, etc.)
  • Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders (truck drivers, movers, limo drivers, etc.)
  • Taxi and Rideshare Drivers (Uber, Lyft, Bolt drivers, etc.)
  • Children (great for brands that have both children’s and adult lines to increase business from both demographics)

You can offer these promotions year-round or only during certain time periods, such as a kid’s discount during back-to-school season, a trucker’s discount overnight on weekdays, or a discount for National First Responder’s Day on October 28th. 

3. Anniversary Sales    

Invite your customers to celebrate your brand’s “birthday” or “anniversary” with you with a special discount or giveaway. You can even go all out and host an in-store event with activities, contests, and prizes, as the NYC retail location of Lego has done in the past. 

You can also make this type of promotion about the customer’s anniversary with your brand, the way Peacock does. 

No matter how you slice it, everyone likes to be celebrated, or to be part of a celebration - let your customers get in on the fun, too!

4. BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In Store)

For brands with both an online and offline presence, BOPIS is a great way to get customers from your website to your store in a single transaction, potentially increasing not only average transaction value, but also driving repeat sales. 

To implement BOPIS, simply offer a discount or freebie for those who buy online and choose the option to pick up their purchase in-store rather than have it shipped. 

5. Bundling Promotions

Unlike buy-one-get-one-free offers, promotion bundling encourages customers to purchase multiple complementary products together, solidifying the presence of your brand and products in their everyday lives. 

Companies like NatureBox have mastered this by creating entire boxes of snacks and supplements that make it convenient for busy folks to get more healthy foods into their diets. In fact, they’ve created an entire business model around being the go-to for tasty packages of nuts, fruits, jerky, treats, adaptogens, and more delivered in one convenient box to a customer’s door. 

This promotion type works for everything from skincare to cleaning products and from groceries to car maintenance items. Just select a few products your customers would typically use together, and you’re off and running!

6. Joint Promotions

Joint promotions allow you to promote bundles of products or services from companies your brand partners with or from other brands under the same corporate umbrella. 

Whether you partner with companies inside or outside of your corporate structure, this promotion works best when you and your partner brand both run similar bundling promotions at once, multiplying and maximizing your results. 

7. Mobile Rewards and App Promotions

Encourage new and returning customers to download your app or sign up for mobile- or text-only sales and rewards with this retail promotion idea. 

While consumers may sometimes find it easy to ignore an email or social media post offering a discount or sale, push notifications, and SMS messages tend to feel more “urgent,” making it easier to get your message in front of your target audience faster. 

8. Interactive Vouchers and Coupons

Interactive vouchers and coupons utilize gamified discounts such as “spin to win” modules and “mystery sale” offers to make the sometimes-repetitive world of retail promotions fresh and fun for your consumers. 

While “spin to win” modules are usually used on a website, you can distribute mystery sale offers via email and social media as well, giving your brand lots of options for staying top-of-mind with consumers. 

9. Social Cause/Charitable Donation Promotions 

Companies with social causes are becoming more and more popular with consumers, to say nothing of the good your brand can do with a charitable donation promotion. 

Let your customers know you’ll be donating proceeds to a certain charity or giving a gift to a cause close to your brand’s heart with every purchase to help attract both new and existing customers willing to open their wallets. 

10.  Insider Discounts and Promotions

Similar to the classic loyalty program, this retail promotion idea rewards customers for making themselves part of one of your brand's lists or groups, such as providing an email address to be part of an email list or following a Facebook page to be alerted to sales and special offers. 

Not only does this promotion help boost social media engagement and email list numbers, but it also doesn’t necessarily require discounts to increase purchases. You can offer double or triple rewards points to insiders for a limited time in lieu of a discount or even offer a “bonus” lump sum of points for new members to entice customers to provide email addresses or contact info. 

11. Social Media Collaborations

Setting up a collaboration specific to a certain social media platform or influencer is a popular way to increase both revenue and followers. 

For example, hold a giveaway or offer a discount only to followers of your chosen collaborator or have an influencer make a video promoting your product with a promo code included somewhere inside. 

This is a great way to tap into segments of your target audience who would be interested in your product but may not follow you yet, or who might be skeptical about your product until they see an endorsement from one of their favorite social media personalities. 

12. Abandoned Cart Coupons

While almost 90% of shopping carts are abandoned, that doesn’t have to mean they’re lost for good. 

Offering a discount code for the items left in a cart via an email or pop-up on a customer’s device could be just the little “nudge” window shoppers need to come back and finish their purchase, turning a failed lead into a conversion. 

13. Free and/or Expedited Shipping and Free Returns 

In addition to offering discounts for cart abandoners, another option to tip the scales in the direction of a sale is a free or expedited shipping offer or free returns. 

This not only decreases costs for customers on the fence but also gives them the confidence to buy something online that they might not otherwise spring for, giving them the assurance that they can ship it back for free if it doesn’t work out. 

Companies like Kohl’s are a good example of how to make this process easy for customers by offering free returns both in-store and online, so shoppers don’t even have to drive to a Kohl’s location in order to get their money back for a less-than-perfect purchase. 

14. Online Shopping Spree

An exciting and attention-getting promotion is a shopping spree. 

Not only does this produce powerful word-of-mouth marketing in the days leading up to the announcement of the winner, but pictures or videos of the ecstatic customer showing off their winnings after the spree are huge draws on social media platforms via user-generated content. 

15. Content Creation Discount

Building off of the power of user-generated content, just as the shopping spree promotion does, offering a “content creation discount” rewards consumers who have created video content of themselves explaining, reviewing, or showing off your product. 

This can boost social media numbers and social proof and is surprisingly easy to manage. 

Rather than simply asking customers to post a video and tag your brand, you can have them send in their video to your marketing team first, to make sure it’s quality content that qualifies them to receive a discount. And voila - a whole new crop of content and increased exposure for your brand for the cost of a few discounts. 

 

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16. Branded Gifts or Bundles

In this brand-presence-boosting promotion, you’ll create a “bestsellers bundle” of your most popular products or services and offer it for a discounted price or as a gift with purchase to your most loyal customers. 

Sephora is a great example of a company that has taken the concept of bundling to a whole new level. Not only do they offer seasonal or launch-specific bundles of full-size products, they also specialize in offering bundles of trial-size items in specific categories, such as sun care or acne mitigation, to help customers get a taste of multiple products they might not have otherwise known about at an inexpensive price. 

Not only will this get consumers both online and off talking about your brand, but you’ll help new and existing customers to get a taste of products they might have tried before, opening the door for increased order values and repeat sales.

17. Referral Discounts

Get your loyal consumers talking and reward them for sharing their love of your brand with friends and family with this popular and age-old promotion. 

Give consumers a referral link or a discount code to share with family, friends, and followers, and reward their efforts by offering a freebie, a discount, or a dollar amount off their next purchase. 

18. Points-Based Discounts

Points-based discounts let customers earn points towards larger and larger discounts or giveaways, or more chances to win a prize,  by doing things like sharing, liking, posting, making a video about your brand, and referring others through their personalized link. 

This is something of a “combination” promotion that stacks various options for earning points on top of each other, giving customers plenty of chances to win or earn whatever the chosen prize or discount might be. 

19. Risk-Free Promotions

This retail promotion refers to the idea that if a product does not live up to a customer’s expectations, they’ll get their money back, removing the perceived risk of trying a new product or service. 

Unlike free shipping or free return offers, which are similar, this product also works for services and helps soothe new customers’ anxiety about getting their money back in case their purchase leaves something to be desired.

20. Subscribe and Save

Subscribe and Save’ is a great way to increase both the value of the average sale and also your number of repeat purchases. 

This promotion type involves giving a discount, even as little as 5%, on every purchase when customers sign up for a subscription or auto-delivery service. This saves customers time by automatically delivering the things they use the most and also makes it effortless to repeat their purchase every month, increasing revenue without the need to make an additional effort towards increasing conversions. 

Leverage Retail Promotions To Entice Both New and Existing Customers

Retail promotions, when used strategically, are not just a great way to introduce new products or move excess inventory but also to introduce new customers to your brand or increase loyalty among current customers. 

Before choosing your next retail promotion idea, make sure to identify the goals of the promotion first - for example, increased revenue, more social media followers, etc. - and you’ll be sure to choose the right retail promotions to help you hit your objectives. 

If you’re searching for a more powerful, more comprehensive way to set up, run, and optimize promotions, Elastic Path Product Experience Manager might be just the solution for you. 

If you’re still not sure what your brand needs to move your retail promotions strategy forward, no sweat - our experts are here to help you find the right solution for your unique brand, without the confusion and uncertainty of making the choice yourself. 

Get in touch with one of our experts today and get ready for a whole new era of retail success. 
 

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