10 Tactics to Drive Ecommerce Sales Without Discounting

Constantly relying on discounts to boost sales is a losing game in the long run. Here are 10 alternatives that will help you sustainably grow your online business.

As you scrutinize your sales numbers, you feel your heart start to sink. There’s a distinct downward trend. Despite the fact that ecommerce is booming around the world, your sales are slumping, and it’s up to you to get things back on track. 

As you consider your options, the idea of offering discounts crosses your mind. It’s a common tactic for boosting ecommerce sales and generating additional revenue. Maybe running a sale will give your business the shot in the arm that it needs. 

Probably not. 

While it’s true that offering sales and discounts can provide a temporary lift in revenue, it’s ultimately not a sustainable strategy and will only provide you with short-term success. A better solution is needed. 

In this Insight, we’ll be providing you with 10 proven tactics to increase ecommerce sales without discounting. Here’s what we’re covering:

  1. Why shouldn’t you be utilizing discounts? 
  2. What are your options besides offering a discount?

Why shouldn’t you be utilizing discounts? 

On the surface, offering discounts seems like a perfectly fine idea. Many successful online companies have been using the strategy for decades, and it appears to be working for them, right? There’s an entire economy built around helping customers find the lowest prices. Honey, a discount-finding tool, was recently purchased by PayPal for a staggering $4 billion.  

So why are they such a problem? 

Three reasons. 

1. Discounting leads customers to think that you’re a discount brand. Instead of being known for quality products or outstanding service, customers associate your company with the lowest price. You become the ecommerce version of Dollar General, attracting those searching for bargains. When a customer receives a discount on their first purchase, you can be pretty confident that they’re going to try to get the same discount with every subsequent purchase. 

Do you really want to join other discount brands in a race to the bottom? Probably not. 

2. If you want to turn a profit, shoppers with a “no discount, no purchase” mentality are likely not your ideal customers. Discounts cannibalize your profits, leaving you with razor thin margins. If you want a healthy bottom line, you probably don’t want your primary customers to be bargain hunters. 

3. Discounting is a short-term solution to a larger problem. Ultimately, you need to figure out why your sales are slumping. In other words, where are the holes in your sales funnel? Is your website confusing? Are your landing pages or Google Ads ineffective

Leaning on discounting to help your business make it through a tough time is like putting a bucket under a leaky pipe instead of taking the time to repair the pipe. 

Clearly, you need strategies for increasing ecommerce sales without discounting. 

What are your options besides offering a discount? (10 Tactics)

To increase ecommerce sales without discounting, utilize tactics like promotions, exclusivity, scarcity, and guarantees. These strategies enable you to boost sales without eroding your profits. 

Promotions 

While discounts seek to attract customers with lower prices, promotions focus primarily on offering something extra. Promotions create similar feelings in customers as discounts without the downsides. Discounting is simply reducing the price, and possibly devaluing your product in hopes of making up revenue through increased sales volume. 

Here are five examples of promotions you can implement:

1. Buy one, get one: If you have excess inventory, BOGO (free or half-off) is an effective way to increase customer engagement and generate sales. You can even stack the offer so that they get more when they buy more, like Beloved Shirts does:

2. Free gift with purchase: Offering a free gift with purchase can be a powerful incentive, giving customers the nudge they need to buy. And if the gift is a sample of one of your products, it gives customers yet another reason to buy from you in the future. Sephora knows this and often includes product samples for free with orders:

3. Free shipping: Ecommerce conversion rates are always higher when free shipping is included. No surprise there. There’s a reason it’s the cornerstone of the Amazon Prime program. If you want to see your ecommerce sales increase, give free shipping to customers, just like Bonobos does for customers in the United States:

4. Free returns: Offering free returns sets customers minds at ease and incentivises them to purchase. They know that they can easily return products if they have any issues. Yes, it will probably increase your return rate, but it will also increase customer loyalty.

5. Discount price threshold: Offering some form of discount or other perk for orders over a threshold amount can motivate shoppers to add more items to their cart, increasing key metrics like Average Order Value (AOV) and Customer Lifetime Value (LTV). Athleta offers free shipping on all orders over $50:

Exclusivity and Scarcity

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a big consumer purchase motivator, and you can take advantage of it by utilizing both exclusivity and scarcity. With exclusivity, you offer bonuses to customers that they can’t get anywhere else, while scarcity highlights the limited availability of particular products. 

6. Loyalty programs: A loyalty program allows you to reward customers who are particularly faithful to your brand. Whether through special discounts on high-demand items or exclusive access to particular products, loyalty programs keep customers coming back again and again. Keenly aware of this reality, Amazon offers all sorts of perks to Prime members:

7. Displaying “limited quantities available”: Showing that you have a limited number of something in stock can create a sense of urgency in customers. They don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to buy. Etsy does a great job of increasing urgency on their product pages by showing how many items are in stock, as well as alerting customers if an item is already in someone’s cart. 

8. Show sold out items: Highlighting sold out items shows how popular they are, which can cause even more people to want them. Just be sure to give customers the option of being notified when the product is back in stock. Otherwise they may forget about it. Black Milk Clothing uses this technique with out of stock items:

Guarantees

Even though online shopping is ubiquitous at this point, customers still deeply appreciate guarantees. Almost everyone has had at least one bad online shopping experience, and guarantees go a long way in assuring customers that they’ll have a good experience with your company. 

9. Money-back guarantee: The greatest fear of most online shoppers is buying something, not liking it, and not being able to easily get a refund. Offering a rock-solid money-back guarantee can ease this fear and compel the customer to purchase. Fly-fishing company Orvis offers what they call a “Great Catch Guarantee”:

10. Service guarantee: Even broader than a money-back guarantee, a service guarantee assures your customers that you will do whatever is necessary to assure their satisfaction. Companies who offer outstanding customer service create customers for life, reducing churn rate and increasing Customer Lifetime Value. Bombas offers a happiness guarantee that gives customers every reason to purchase from them:

Play the long game

Constantly relying on discounts to boost sales is a losing game in the long run. Yes, revenue increases, but profits take a hit. What’s more, you label yourself as a discount brand in the eyes of many customers, and once you’re on that path it’s hard to escape. 

There are effective ways to increase ecommerce sales without discounting. By strategically leveraging promotions, exclusivity and scarcity, and guarantees, you can compel customers to purchase while still maintaining healthy profit margins. 

The strategies listed above are just one part of the Conversion Rate Optimization process. If you would like help optimizing your website for maximum ecommerce sales, request a free landing page teardown

A member of our strategy team will provide you with a base-level assessment of your website and identify potential areas that could be optimized to elevate your website experience.

About the author: Rudy Klobas is a Marketing Coordinator at The Good, where he regularly works to produce insightful, informative content and copywriting designed to help ecommerce leaders increase conversions.

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