Offers like coupons, discounts and deals are basically ways to drive customer loyalty and nudge people along with buying things they abandoned in the cart.
Before you think of revenue, you must think of customer loyalty. Or even if you do think of revenue first, you need customer loyalty to bring it for you. Customer loyalty is a trifle more important than customer acquisition and, incidentally, it’s 6x less expensive! And loyal customers become the best ambassadors to your brand, thereby bringing in more customers.
Before we discuss ways to wield offers to your business advantage, you first need to understand what customer loyalty means to your business, whether your business is set-up to benefit from such offers, and the different forms in which offers can be presented.
What is brand loyalty and how do you make customers stick like Velcro? Well, simply put, brand loyalty is a customer choosing your brand over your competitors because they liked you product as well as their overall shopping experience with you. It’s always nice for a customer to have consistency in their shopping, and if you can provide a consistently good experience for them, they even develop an emotional attachment to your brand.
Why offers, discounts and all the rest
When a customer comes back to your store, to appreciate them choosing you over someone else, you give them another reason to return by offering deals and discounts – something customers are hardwired to respond to.
And for repeat customers, some stores take it to the next step and offer loyalty programs to incentivize shoppers to pick their store over others for the rest of the year! They usually study the online shopping patterns and build long-term customer loyalty through fee-based membership programs.
Either which way, the end goal is customer loyalty.
Offers and deals are not suited to all e-commerce stores
There are pros and cons to this strategy, and it is important for stores to evaluate themselves first, so that this program builds customer loyalty and encourages sales without financially breaking the company.
1. Customers are happy with their exclusive deals and are incentivized to come back and shop with you, thereby providing definite sales in the future.
2. There will be a higher number of purchases, higher purchase frequency, and better customer lifetime value.
3. Setting up and implementing offers is quite easy, and discounts can be tracked in reports from the website and app.
4. You can move inventory quickly, and bring in new wares faster.
5. It establishes loyalty, gives them their money’s worth, and slowly helps you build a relationship with them.
1. The incentives have to be generous enough to whet the customers appetite if you want to ensure the next sale.
2. If the incentive is big enough to attract a customer, the retailer has to be able to absorb the cost of the incentive. Without a balance, this cost can’t be recouped easily.
3. If customers get trained on discounts, they may wait for these offers and purchase only then, leading to decreased revenue and conversions.
4. You risk decreased margins and profitability.
5. Offers could attract non-loyal shoppers and customers outside your target market who are only interested in the offers and don’t shop with your otherwise.
As you can see from the table, this strategy is not suited to all businesses. And to enterprises to which it is suited, not all offers may work for your type of business. For instance, if you have a wide margin, you can afford deep and frequent discounting. For high-end brands you may want just loyalty-based offers. And for smaller stores with slimmer margins, you can offer coupons for the next purchase instead of discounts on the current one. In any case, each business has to measure the success of each offer and work the next one based on that.
Types of offers and their general use
In this blog we are talking about offers in the beginning stages of implementing brand loyalty. So we are excluding membership programs.
The basic offers are:
- Percentage based [e.g. small incentives like 5% off, bigger discounts like 20% off to drive sales, or 50% off to clear old stock or products that aren’t moving]
- Cash value based [For instance, if the product is a little more expensive, you can accordingly offer a fixed amount discount, say $30 off. Or couple this offer with a minimum purchase value.]
- Free shipping [This is a bonus to a lot of people, especially frequent shoppers. You could offer free shipping above a certain minimum average order value, and discounted shipping for a bill that’s less.]
- Free gift [Who doesn’t love a present?! This can be used smartly to increase the average order size, or to move a product that isn’t selling.]
Ways to wield offers to your business advantage, thereby driving sales as well as cinching customer loyalty:
- Discounts and deals every month or week: These are typically discounts offered either at the middle or the end of the month to drive sales and meet sales goals. A good example is the supermarket BigBazaar. People can rely on these discounts to be available every other time and opt to shop here to be able to benefit from some or the other discount. Moreover, with this type of store, when people notice a product on sale, they think they’d might as well buy it for later on or they either impulse buy it. 32% of impulse shopping happens at supermarkets, and discounts only spur it on.
- Offers for a prelaunch: This is useful either when you’re launching a new store or a new product. It piques curiosity and creates excitement. In exchange for a gift card or coupon, you can get some e-mail IDs, a general survey done, and perhaps a few subscriptions, too. You could offer a 10% discount for a new subscription. This is extremely useful to build your e-mail lists, and thereby your conversions, to say nothing of the loyalty factor it fosters.
- The expected holiday, festival and seasonal sales: These are most expected sales, nowadays carried out not just on big festivals like Christmas, Easter or Valentine’s Day, but throughout the year, celebrating smaller occasions like Friendship’s Day, Yoga Day, Raksha Bandhan and winter! People are certainly going to shop this time of the year, so having good holiday deals could mean the difference between making new customers and losing customers to rivals. And if you can find a day that celebrates something you sell, for instance you’re a sport store, you can very well make a do out of it and have a yoga day offer! All sticky mats at 15% off, only today! The deadline makes shoppers act fast.
- Sell the abandoned cart: The easiest way to nudge people along with buying things they abandoned in the cart is to remind them about it through an e-mail or push notification and offer a discount or deal on it. You could inform them if something they abandoned in a cart is now being sold at a discounted price, or offer an incentive to buy it.
- Referrals: Referral based programs are a smart way to get new and vetted customers, as well as keep the old customer’s loyalty. When the new shopper shops using the old customer’s referral code, they both enjoy discounts on their purchase. Since the old shopper can’t avail this discount until the new one makes a purchase, they will be sure to gently push them along with the purchase!
- The discount for all first-time shoppers: For people who haven’t gotten the referral yet, this is the other method to bring on new customers. Many e-commerce stores and brick-and-mortars now offer a first-time shopper discount. This is usually a straightforward and tempting cash value based discount. It introduces people to the brand and ensures they make their first purchase.
- Discounts on a minimum purchase bill amount: This is a clever way to offer a discount. A shopper gets a reward only if their purchase meets a minimum value amount. So you’re giving it only to people who are already making a purchase, and a purchase of a substantial amount, no less. This protects your base sales, can encourage a bill of a higher purchase value, and also making the customer happy.
- Exclusive discounts: These discounts are offered, as the name suggests, They can be used in a number of different offers. For instance, offers for followers on your social network rewards their loyalty whilst attracting new subscribers. Customer loyalty discount codes are exclusively for existing customers (who have made over a certain number of purchases), thereby reinforcing their loyalties but also ensuring another sale. An exit intent offer is offered to the customer just as they are about to leave your site. For instance, it can say offer £40 off on the items in their cart, but the discount can only be activated with their e-mail ID. To ensure the ID isn’t fake, inform them that the discount code will be sent to their ID and can be opened from there. Exclusive offers can be offered for just about anything, even something as mundane as offers only for online purchases, or only for in-person purchases. But if used smartly, they work quite well and can always assure you of a sale.
- Retargeted promotions: Remarketing is consequential and is an important marketing effort. The customer is already familiar with the brand. And the retargeted promotion is carefully tailored based on the browsing history of the customer, to be able to cater more specifically to them. The remarketing ad or e-mail serves as a reminder of the product, and the promotion serves as bait for a purchase.
- Membership incentives: We had mentioned long-term membership programs at the beginning, but also remarked on how they were slightly different from the regular offers and deals. However, if you do have a membership program in place, either fee-based or otherwise, there will be plenty of exclusive offers to make to the members, from free shipping to frequent offers and every other perk of membership. This in itself can work as an incentive for people to sign on as members. Customers could be asked to pay a token membership in exchange for member privileges, or they can benefit from point based systems, where they collect points on every purchase and can use those collected points to claim something of the same value.
There are a thousand different possibilities on how offers can be used to help floor sales whilst also garnering customer loyalty. And those can be further coupled in different combinations to get the best of each deal. However, the 10 mentioned here are the popular and successful tactics that big e-commerce stores use, and that generally work for most business types.
So remember to pick the ones that best suit your business and clientele, and you’re sure to enjoy better sales and better patronage, too!