Can Email Work without Discounts?

Posted by Stephanie Miller on

Back in August, many retailers claimed they wanted to avoid the heavy promotions and discounts that have become a crutch for driving response in many email programs. We applauded this decision, knowing that email doesn’t have to cut the margin in order to get a response.

Thus, we were disappointed at retailer reaction when the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported survey results in September that most consumers say (not surprisingly) they would rather have free shipping and other discount offers this holiday season. Many retailers quickly abandoned their plan to expand beyond steep discounts and announced they were launching the discounts early and often through email. Of course consumers will vote for paying less for more in any survey, but we urge retailers to also consider non-discount offers this season as well.

Early in the season, use high value and quality (non-discount) offers to appeal to the hearts of consumers who want to please everyone on their list. Instead of straight discounts, let shoppers know you understand that precarious balance of giving pleasure and budget pain inherent in holiday shopping.

Consider these alternate offers:

  • Accessories at a discount with the purchase of a full price item
  • Downloadable gift guides for merchandise at different price points
  • Gift card to spend in January earned from purchases today
  • Premium gift wrap
  • Upgraded shipping options
  • Training webinars for items that need assembly

Pace out the seasonal offer calendar not based on merchandise alone, but based on how consumers shop with your brand. Tap their need to please early, appeal to urgency and simplicity later. Gift cards and certificates become much more popular later in the season, but don’t wait until the week prior to Christmas – start promoting them in early December. Free shipping is less important than expedited shipping later in the season. And, don’t forget the week between the holidays and early January – count these weeks as part of the season.

For more ideas on how to generate more revenue this holiday season, download our Holiday Revenue & Response Guide now.


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