In E-Commerce, Should You Promote All Discounts to All Users?

Let’s say you’re a 25 year old woman browsing on her favorite clothing brand’s website. What she really loves at this shop is the accessories – she must have at least 10 pairs of their shoes – and occasionally their loungewear. 

She heads to the homepage and immediately notices a big banner at the top of the screen: “50% off all pajamas and sleepwear for Gold Card members”.

Amazing! Our imaginary shopper thinks to herself, “I love their paja-” but her inner monologue stops mid-sentence. ‘For Gold Card members’. Bummer, I don’t have one of their Gold Cards. 

A little frustrated but undeterred, our shopper keeps scrolling. 

A few pages later, her browsing is interrupted by a full-screen pop-up: “Buy one get one free on all men’s dress clothes”. Oh please, she thinks to herself, I never bought my boyfriend dress shirts, even before we broke up! Which leaves her on a bit of a sour note.

She closes the pop-up and goes back to the pair of stilettos she’d been eyeing.

Realizing it’s time to head out, she moves to close the page, only to see another lightbox appear, this time encouraging her to take advantage of 10% off the entire sportswear collection.  Hm, why should I spend 100 bucks on a gym outfit when I have 10 perfectly good old t-shirts at home? 

Thinking the brand didn’t seem quite the same as she remembered, she shuts her computer and doesn’t come back to that site for quite some time.

Now, we need to ask the question: Did that site go overkill on the discounts? Or did they just strike out with this one shopper? More broadly, in e-commerce, should you promote all discounts to all users? Let’s decide if it’s CRO myth, fact or fiction.

Discounts: Is Casting a Wide Net the Best Policy?

You might be tempted to think that discounts always work to increase conversion rates. After all, we know that price is top of mind when shopping online, and that (excluding the luxury sector), buyers demand a bargain. We have countless use cases showing how promo codes, sales pop-ins and bargain banners increase CTR and transactions.

But do discounts work systematically to increase conversion rates? And what’s the role of relevance in all this? Will being exposed to messaging about sales that don’t apply only serve to frustrate the reader? Or do they provide opportunities for cross and upsell, exposure to new product lines, or generate great gift ideas?

At AB Tasty, we’re proponents of the former – as a rule of thumb, seeing sales messages that aren’t relevant is generally detrimental to conversion rates. 

The logical next step? E-commerce brands need to personalize the onsite browsing experience. Segment your audiences to be sure that women who buy loungewear see discounts for loungewear, not sportswear; that only Gold Card holders see promotions for them, and so on. Indeed, according to our own study on personalization in e-commerce, the most demanded aspect of site personalization by consumers is to ‘make me aware of sales, deals or promotions that are relevant to me.’ Clearly, shoppers like deals – but only those that are actually interesting for them. 

How Can You Create Personalized Browsing Experiences?

The key to a successful personalization strategy is of course, data. Information to help you paint a clearer picture of your website visitors – whether from a DMP, CDP or even your site’s data layer – will help determine the granularity and specificity of your personalization campaigns.

But you don’t need to get too fancy to start personalizing. We helped our client Sephora personalize one of their loyalty card promotions – showing the relevant banner only to card holders – simply by drawing from information stored in the data layer. The campaign led to a lift of 16% in transactions.

Sephora Myth Busters
Sephora variation Myth Busters
Variation – you can see the promotional banner offering a free tote bag with a promo code at the top of the page.

Again, our client Etam was easily able to display a discount pop up on the summery basket page only if a user already had a product type that was on sale in their basket. 

Etam original
Etam variation

So, final conclusion? It’s a MYTH to think you should without fail display all your discounts to all users – relevance takes precedence over casting a wide net. The answer to getting the most from your promotional campaigns is to personalize the browsing experience. 

CRO Myth Busters is a mini series for conversion rate optimization professionals. We take a quick look at commonly held CRO beliefs and determine if they’re true, sometimes true, or simply CRO myths!

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