How to Create Retail Promotions that Work

Between online sales and in-store promotions, holiday sales continue to soar in nearly every retail niche. Every year since 2010, we’ve seen record turnouts, both in stores themselves as well as online, for the holiday season. While e-commerce has officially outpaced in-store sales, make no mistake that brick and mortar locations are still seeing huge influxes of revenue during this time. And the secret? It all comes down to effective promotions.

But what is an effective promotion? As customers become more informed about the way that stores use discounts and other common sales tactics to boost revenue, it becomes imperative that stores get more creative with their efforts. Instead of getting caught in the endless cycle of discounting items to attract customers who know that a discount is coming, stores are looking for better ways to attract purchasers. These are just a few effective tactics for promotions, why they work, and how to set them up in the ERPLY system.


Bundling is a tried-and-true marketing promotion, and it works for a variety of reasons. One of those is that bundling items requires less justification on the part of the customer when making impulse buys. It’s easier for a customer to justify an impulse buy one time than it is to justify several impulse buys. Another reason bundling works are that it creates the perception of being a better value – even if none of the products in the bundle are actually discounted. Customers do the mental math that makes the deal seem like everything is more reasonably priced (three items for $90 is only $30 per item, and that seems more reasonable than buying two items for $5 each and another item for $80, for example). Reframing value in this way is an excellent way to push sales without having to take a hit on your bottom line.

But if you are creating discounts with your bundles, you aren’t alone. One common bundling tactic is to offer a discount on a lower-priced item when a customer purchases a related higher-priced item. Another is to package a product with a service, such as offering a steep discount on the usual delivery and installation fee when customers purchase a new appliance during the sale. Being strategic about bundling is what helps businesses move less-popular goods at the full price in many instances.

In ERPLY, setting up bundles is simple. Navigate to the Product tab, and select “new” in the upper right-hand corner. There is an option to bundle a product with another product, and after you save, the system will essentially create a single entry for the entire bundle. Any time that bundle is sold, all the products in the bundle will be removed from inventory. You can adjust how many of each product to remove per sale, as well as the sales price of each product, in the system.

Free Gifts

All business owners know how powerful the word “free” is to customers. They love believing that they are getting something for nothing, and it’s a common tactic used during the holiday sale season. BOGO (buy one get one) sales are very common during the holidays, especially for items that will be out of season shortly after the holidays are over. Studies show that consumers actually estimate the value of free items to be much higher than it actually is, so they not only believe they are getting something for nothing, but they also believe they are getting something of higher value than they are.

Another common way to use free gifts is to offer a free add-on to certain purchases. For example, purchasing a new piece of outdoor sports gear may include a free pair of sports sunglasses. Many times, the free gift is not available in-store, but instead requires the customer to send in their receipt to request the gift. This saves your bottom line even more money because not all customers will actually apply for the gift within the time frame.

To create any type of retail promotion in ERPLY, you simply start at the Inventory module and navigate to Sales Promotions in the left scroll. There are multiple types you can add, all based on customer behavior – basically, if a customer does X, they get Y. You can customize this to anything you like, but for the sake of this example, say that if they buy any one of these three products, they get one specific product at a 100% discount (in other words, for free). From there you can also set your expiration date, choose what action will need to be taken to qualify (such as offering up a coupon), and more.

Limited-Time Coupons and Flash Sales

The holidays are of course a prime example of how powerful a limited-time sale can be. During Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 24-hour flash sales bring in significant revenue that no retailer can afford to miss. But why does limiting a sale make it more successful with customers? There are several reasons. The first is that it gives the customer a feeling of being involved in something exclusive. Not everyone will be able to take advantage of a flash sale or a limited-time coupon, and that makes those who do feel special.

Another reason is that urgency leads to snap decisions – AKA, impulse buys. No one wants to feel as though they’ve missed out on something, so marketing a sale as something that will be gone very soon is an effective way to motivate buyers. There’s one big thing that retailers have to consider things like flash sales: making sure you have enough inventory. If you put a specific product or category of products on sale for a limited time only, expect the sales to be significantly higher than usual, and be sure you have the stock to cover the sale. Big marketplaces like Amazon have learned this the hard way after customers complained about being duped on sales that became unavailable after just minutes of going live. If you don’t have a lot of excess stock, be very clear that the sale is only so long as supplies last.

As we showed above, setting up coupons in ERPLY is very easy. When deciding the formula (when a customer does X, they get Y), you can easily arrange for a sale. For example: When a customer purchases a specific product on a certain date, they get a 50% discount. You can arrange for this to be activated by a coupon or to happen automatically. Another common way to set up a coupon in ERPLY is to create a discount (Y) when the customer spends a specific amount (X). Spending $100 gets you $15 off, for example.

Donations and Charitable Partnerships

In some cases, retailers have found that what they need for effective promotions isn’t lower prices or good deals, but something that makes customers feel good about shopping with them. Around the holidays, especially, charitable donations are an effective means of encouraging customers to spend more. There are several ways to go about doing this. You can simply ask if customers want to donate a dollar to check out, a common practice at major retailers like Wal-Mart. Another option is to ask if customers want to round up their purchase and donate the difference to the charity.

However, other retailers simply pledge a portion of their holiday sales to the charity. If you intend to do this, it’s a good idea to make the sales as visible as possible so customers feel as though they are a part of donating to the charity. Having a sales growth chart that shows how much the charity will be getting, which you update daily with new figures, is a good way to make customers feel like they are a part of giving a large sum to a beloved charity.

The biggest reason that this tactic works? You’re connecting with consumers on an emotional level. Studies show that marketing tactics that do this are not only more effective for the consumer but are also more widely shared by the consumer to other buyers.

Loyalty Programs

Finally, one marketing tactic that can be added to your holiday efforts is a loyalty program. Whether you offer discounts after spending so much in-store, points that can be redeemed for merchandise, exclusive coupons in the future, special items that aren’t available to the public, or any other incentive, there is nothing like a loyalty program for making customers feel as though they are part of something exclusive. This encourages repeat spending, bigger purchases per visit, and more. If you tie loyalty rewards to referrals, it also boosts new customer sales.

Even if you don’t have the budget to launch a major loyalty program with points, special rewards, store “bucks”, or other gimmicks, you can still take advantage of this promotion tactic. Simply use email marketing in place of a loyalty program. Get customers to sign up for your “loyalty program” via email, and then send out special deals, coupons, sneak peeks, and other exclusive bonuses throughout the holiday season.

In ERPLY, there is a built-in loyalty program that works on a points system, something that most consumers are very familiar with. You can set up all the parameters in the system so that points are earned based on the amount of the sale, the products sold, the date of the sale, and many other factors. You are able to exempt items from the loyalty program, create special coupons that lead to additional points (such as “double points” coupon), and much more. You can even set up expiration dates for points themselves, to take advantage of the sense of urgency used in other marketing tactics.

Quick Tips to Get the Most from Your Promotions

In addition to what you can do in the ERPLY system itself, there are other ways to draw customers to your sales. These methods rely on understanding the psychology of buyers. Here are just a few tips to help you boost your marketing efforts for your next holiday season:

  • Try layering discounts rather than offering a single larger discount. Consumers perceive an additional 20% discount on an item that is already 20% off, rather than a single 40% off discount, as having more value for them – even when the result is exactly the same.
  • Remember that discounts are relative to the overall price for consumers. Even though $10 off $100 is the same as $10 off $20 (either way, the consumer only saves $10), the second is seen as a much better deal because it’s a higher percentage of the overall cost.
  • Remember to emphasize what the consumer will gain rather than what they will spend on a deal. Telling them they will get $10 off signals to their brain that they are gaining $10. Telling them that an item is “only $5” still says that they will spend.
  • There are times when emphasizing a slightly cheaper price can backfire. Items that are priced at exactly $300 seem to be of higher quality to customers than items that are priced at $289, for example. Understand your target audience’s desires – do they prefer to save, or are they lured in by the thought of luxury?

These are just a few ways to tap into the buyer psychology that can help drive more sales.

Let ERPLY Do the Work

There are many ways to effectively promote sales during this time of year, but the most important thing is to not make it hard for your sales team to implement those promotions. When customer service starts to decline because of difficult promotions, sales will drop. That is why having ERPLY’s easy promotional tweaks comes in very handy. It’s easy to arrange everything behind the scenes, and let your sales team do what they do best – keeping customers happy so that they have no reason to not come back for more savings.

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