Tips to Create Effective Promotions

There’s more to creating effective promotions than just getting a wacky inflatable tube man…especially since we’re talking about online shops here, so wacky inflatable tube man will probably not help you.

There are a lot of factors you might want to think about – type of sale, how much you can afford to discount an item (literally), planning out sales and promoting them on social, factoring in how much you have to make to break even with that wacky inflatable tube man you bought, etc.

Here are some tips and tricks on how to create effective promotions:

Create Effective Promotions

First off: terminology

I’m going to drop a couple of terms in here – mainly “sale” and “promotion/promo” – that might seem interchangeable. But they’re really quite different.

Sale: A sale is just a way of saying that a price has been marked down. Now, in retail IRL, “markdowns” typically refer to items that are permanently on sale. That is, the price will not go back up. So something would be on sale, for example, if you were planning on deleting it from your shop after marking it down for a brief time.

Promotion (promo): A promotion is when items are marked down in price and discounted for a limited time. This will probably be what you do more of with your online shop.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move onto tips!


Figure out what type of promo or sale it will be:

Here are just a few different types of sales you might use:

  • Reduce the price of everything: Do a shop-wide sale by bringing down the price of everything in your store. 
  • Loss Leaders:” discount products that are in demand and that have been doing well to boost more sales. 
  • End of the Season” sale: This is a great way to make way for new designs, get the most out of holiday and season specific designs before removing them from your shop (if you so choose).
  • Pre-season sales: Summer just around the corner? Try having a sale on tanks! Fall creeping up? Try a sweater sale!
  • “Get it before it’s gone” sale: If you don’t have excess merchandise you have to get rid of, try having a sale for any designs you’re considering deleting from your shop so that people know they have to act fast.
  • New Arrivals sale: discounting new items is a great way to get attention for new items in your shop, as well as to show people that you are staying on top of regularly updating your shop.

“For a limited time only!” – Make demand high

Promos and sales all happen for a limited time. But having a limited time product is a great way to put the pressure on so that buyers just decide to go for it. Not to mention, it’s a great way to show that you keep up with your shop and that if your fans don’t keep up with you on social media and with your shop, they might miss out on something awesome.

Chuck Pavoni, for example, had a special shiny gold version of his “Space Cadet” tee available on Etsy recently. And that caused me buyer anxiety that made me want to say “Shutup and take my money!” because I knew it could disappear if I waited too long.

Artist Shops make this super easy. You can easily add and remove products quickly, so it’d be a quick and simple process to put a design up for a short time and take it down right when the sale/promo ends. 

Speaking of limited time, limit how many sales/promos you do as well. You don’t want to overwhelm people with them – they’ll lose their importance.

Ditch the coupon method

Don’t get me wrong, coupons are great and I’m not saying don’t use them. After all, when you have a coupon code to a shop or a coupon to a store, you almost feel obligated to use it because if you waste it, you waste free money! 

BUT, if you don’t want to deal with coupons, as mentioned earlier, you can just use the method where you change the prices throughout your shop and make it a “prices as marked” type deal. That saves effort for both you and the customer.

And if your shop doesn’t have a feature that literally puts a little slash through prices and adds what the new sale price is, one way you can show the price comparison is by adding the ORIGINAL price in the product description, so that people can see how much they’re saving and how much less they’re spending (super easy with the product description in Artist Shops!)

If you’re like me and you’re bad at math, but want to calculate what a certain percentage off would be, here’s a great resource

Promote, promote, promote

You can run the best, cleverest sale in the world, but if you don’t promote it, it’s gonna fall flat on its figurative face.

“If you build (hype for) it, they will come.”

And it’s true. You’ve absolutely got to post about any promos and sales that you have going on. Pin a tweet about your sale/limited time item/promo on Twitter. Add a carousel of your discounted designs on Facebook. Post about your promo on your blog. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it.

And to do this right…


Scheduling out when you’ll have sales and promos is a great way to prepare what you need to do before each one, when you’re going to push certain designs, and when you’re going to have specific social media posts advertising your sale, limited time offer, new products, etc.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 4.57.16 PM

Feel free to use this template! Click here or the image above and when you get to the table, hit File then “Make a Copy” and it’s all yours! 

We do that at Threadless! It’s a great way not only of organizing sales/promos you know you want to have, but it’s also a fantastic way of looking down the line and getting inspiration for scheduling sales/promos that line up with holidays, pop-culture events, your birthday, etc. Again, speaking of which…

Consider making your promo/sale relevant by jumping on trends

Do you have a design relevant to a movie coming out? Advertise that product at a discounted price! Is summer around the corner? Start a sale on tanks! Do you have ugly Christmas sweater designs? Do a November sale on them so that people get them in time for the winter holidays!

Track your sale/promo efforts

The key to getting better with sales and promos is looking back at ones that maybe didn’t work out so well, learning from what flopped vs what did well.

One way you can do this is by checking Google Analytics! Did a certain sale drive more traffic to your site? Did a certain post? What’s working?

Know what your goals are

This is often overlooked, because everyone assumes that the goal of a sale or promo is to make money. Duh.

But you know the phrase “you have to spend money to make money”? Sometimes, that’s ok too. Knowing what your goal with a sale is will help you figure out how to price your items if you’re discounting. Are you doing a MASSIVE sale just to garner more fans and traffic for your shop? Maybe making money isn’t the goal here, and making a little bit less for adding a greater discount to items is more important.

If it’s a sale where the goal is to make money, you want to make sure that you’re careful with how much you’re discounting your items. 

Check out these links for further tips and tricks:

– “How to Create a Product Promotion in Facebook” (shoptab)
– “
Chapter 10: Running a Successful Sale & Event” (Shopify)
– “
3 Time-Tested Retail Sales Promotions That Drive Foot Traffic and Build Loyalty” (Shopify – this one is a little more geared towards stores in real life, not online, but still some helpful tips)
The Dirty Secret of Black Friday ‘Discounts‘” (Wall Street Journal – this is more just a fascinating read)
How to Run a Successful Etsy Sale” (Handmadeology)

.     .     .

We’re an artist community built on the power of helping each other succeed — if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments! Thank you!

Illustrations done by the incredible Katie Lukes

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