These Digital Discounts Do Double Duty to Maximize Online Sales

Most people are shopping with care as we brace for a long recession in Canada and around the world. They’re using the internet to find the best deals, both online and offline.

Statistics Canada has been tracking changes in spending habits over the past few months. The data speaks for itself.

  • 50% of Canadians sought sales & promotions
  • 47% Purchased cheaper alternatives, brands or items
  • 45% Delayed making a purchase
  • 27% Often or sometimes borrowed money to meet day-to-day expenses
  • 24% Delayed buying a home or moving to a new rental
  • 24% Had to draw on savings to pay for expenses

The vast majority of Canadian businesses offer deals for holidays and weekly sales, which makes it harder to gain potential buyers’ attention and impress them with your offer. Canadian consumers are looking for more options to make their budgets stretch every day and in every way.

However, many businesses are also suffering in these tough economic times. They can’t afford to try to beat the competition on price alone, especially when large companies can easily win the race to a rock bottom price.

Strategic discounting is the key to getting back more than you lose from reduced prices (and slashed profit margins). Not only can these digital discounts make the sale, but they can also turn buyers into repeat customers (the holy grail of retail) or otherwise increase the return on ‘investment’ (discount). Additionally, you can increase the number and quality of leads for more sales in the future.

Implementing any of the following discount strategies is relatively easy by comparison to just a few years ago. Today’s ecommerce platforms have features and plugins that make it easy to set up and manage a wide variety of discounts that increase sales, order size and repeat customers. Many of these tools also offer standalone versions, if you’re operating without a major ecommerce platform directly from your website. For example, popular tools like Shortstack make it super easy to have social contests and offer coupons via social media.

Even the smallest business can use these tools!

Digital Discounts That Maximize Online Sales

Email Subscription Discount

Capturing a consumer’s email address is priceless, and it can pay off for you time and time again. You can generate the first sale and many sales thereafter by sending engaging, useful content. The most common use of this tactic is a popup offer of X% off their purchase if they sign up.

Customize mailing lists for personalized campaigns that specifically target the recipients’ interests. Offer special discounts and ongoing, exclusive deals to subscribers so they remain on your mailing list. Regular contests and giveaways are powerful ways to keep your subscribers, and have them excitedly open each email you send.

Integrate sales funnels for maximum profits. Thrive Themes Funnels offers lots of funnel functionality for small businesses on a tight budget, and the Systeme suite of tools has a free level.

Familiarize yourself with CASL to ensure legal compliance with anti-spam laws in Canada.

Loyalty Programs

Canadians LOVE loyalty programs, from points to tiered discounts. In fact, 41 percent of Canadians say a loyalty program will influence their likelihood to remain loyal to a brand. Any good ecommerce platform will offer or facilitate loyalty programs. For example, Canada’s Shopify allows you to identify specific groups and offer them exclusive discounts.

“Customer loyalty programs reward customers who repeatedly interact with a brand,” explains Shopify. “It’s a customer retention strategy that encourages customers to continue buying from your brand rather than competitors. The more a customer buys or engages with the brand, the more rewards they earn.”

Loyalty programs are surprisingly underused in the online world, which makes it that much more powerful through its competitive advantage.

Loss Leaders

A loss leader is a product or service offered at near or below cost, in order to bring in customers who will buy other products or related consumables while they’re there. It’s an old strategy that isn’t used as often in ecommerce. Loss leaders work online too, you’re just increasing website traffic instead of foot traffic.

I’ve found the best way to use loss leaders online is to feature their limited availability. Add a “countdown” indicating how many are left at that price, to encourage shoppers to grab it instead of continuing to look at other sites.

Double the impact by promising email subscribers that they’ll be notified of these deep discounts before they’re available on your website. Simply send them a coupon code a day or two before the sale goes live online. Limit the number available for pre-purchase to create urgency and ensure you have enough left for when the sale is posted on your website.

Win Your purchase

“Win your purchase” is an offline strategy that is rarely seen online. It’s easy to digitize though, and it can be a strong incentive to choose your store over another one. Technically it’s a contest, but it still dangles the possibility of a 100% discount for budget-conscious consumers.

You’ll capture their email address, and have a chance to prove your emails are valuable enough to continue their subscription after the winner is drawn. This strategy is a perfect fit for your social media platforms as well.

Influencer Discounts

Influencer marketing is one of the most effective and budget-friendly types of digital advertising. You can work with an influencer whose followers are similar to your ideal customer for a precisely targeted campaign, and many are very affordable. You don’t have to find thousands of dollars for a celebrity endorsement. Studies have shown ‘micro-influencers’ (those with less followers) actually provide more value and have a higher level of legitimate engagement.

Think beyond reviews and gift guides. A thorough, positive review or gift guide recommendation can certainly be effective, but you’ll probably find more subtle content works even better. For example, often brings sponsored products into their content in helpful ways with articles, such as Today’s Tech Can Cut Household Chores in Half. Whatever type of content you choose, provide a special discount code and/or giveaway prize for the influencer to offer their followers.

Finding influencers who are a great fit for you and your products can be challenging. Ask your social media followers who their favourite influencers are, and check out our list of Popular Canadian Blogs for Blogger Outreach and Influencer Marketing.

Since the content created can remain on the influencer’s site and social platforms indefinitely, influencer marketing will, in turn, bring you customers indefinitely. If the campaign proves to be profitable, you can work with that influencer repeatedly. Don’t undervalue them though, it takes a ton of work to create and market engaging content and they’ll need more than a $20 freebie to do it.

Maximizing Sales With Discounts

Use these unique ways to offer digital discounts in combination with more common methods, such as:

  • Emailed discounts when a cart is abandoned
  • Bonuses with purchase
  • Clearance page
  • Retargeting
  • Free shipping with a minimum purchase

With a little trial & error, you’ll come up with an unbeatable strategy that makes consumers happy without battering your bottom line.

Experiment with these offers and track ROI to determine which type works best for both you and your customers. Don’t forget to ask your social media followers what kind of discounts they’d like to see, or what else it would take to make them choose to buy from you. Ask your staff what kind of financial objections they’re hearing from consumers, so you can arm them with the perfect discount. Your bargain-hunting friends can be an endless source of ideas as well.

How are you serving budget-conscious consumers in Canada? Please share your insights & questions in the comments below, or join us in the Online Business Canada Facebook group.


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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on, and, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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