5 Tips for Running a Promotion

Running a promotion seems simple enough. But from the length of email subject lines to using a flat image vs lifestyle photo, there are many factors that impact who clicks what, how good a deal sounds to customers, and ultimately, how effective your sale is.

Based on some tricks of the trade that we’ve tried and tested right here at Threadless (after 17 years to boot!), here are 5 things to do when running a sale to make sure it’s super effective!

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Free shipping 

Who doesn’t love free shipping? ComScore found that Free Shipping Day bumped up sales by 16%. For us, while free shipping promos don’t get the same buzz as the big deal discounts like 50% off, customers are more likely to order multiple items to save on shipping lots of items.

Artist Shops pro tip: Good news! From Monday, July 17th to Thursday, July 20th, your customers will get free shipping* on their Artist Shop orders! And the extra good news? You don’t have to cover the charges for free shipping, so it costs you nothing. So spread the word and start promoting! (And YOU get free shipping on your own shop items too, so now’s the perfect time to order some products for yourself.)

*Free shipping for a minimum of $45 US / $75 international. Offer valid from Monday, July 17th 9:59 AM CST to Thursday, July 20th 10 AM CST.


$12 Tees for Everyone! 

One discount that does well for us is the “$12 tee” sale (like we did for Memorial Day)! Not only is a $12 tee more than 50% off our regular tee price – it’s a straight forward deal! I talked to our VP of Finance (and our guru of stats), Jason, and he said: “we have seen our conversion rates increase by 2.5-3x during sales like these!” Translated, 2.5 to 3 times more people went to our site and hit the ‘buy’ button – not too shabby.

Artist Shops pro tip: To get the most bang for your buck, we suggest putting the classic tee on sale in your shop for $12. With a base cost of just $10, it’s the shirt you can discount to a super low price without losing a profit. You can also try out $15 classic tees to see how that does as well (and to make even a little more money!)

A lifestyle photo and flat image of artist Ailadi’s “I Feel Like Dancing 🙂” design.

Using the Right Images in Ads

You can totally run Facebook ads without breaking the bank. But you also want to capture peoples’ attention with the right kind of ad image. We were surprised to find that flat images of a product work best for us. Or, as far as lifestyle photography, images that feature a single person and are straight forward yet eye-catching are great. Our email expert Lance thinks it’s because “people see a cool design very easily whereas some of the lifestyle ones you can’t really see what’s on the shirt.”

Artist Shops pro tip: Your Artist Shop automatically creates flat images of all your products for you! Just select which product you want to look at on the specific designs in your shop (like a customer would) and screenshot the image that the shop creates for you. And if you do go with lifestyle photography, that photography can get a second wave of life in your Artist Shop – use it to spruce up your homepage collection!

Utilizing Email 

Sure, Twitter and Facebook may be the new(ish) kids on the block, but email isn’t dead – think of it more like classic. In fact, we send out emails from Threadless and Artist Shops and keep track of how they do every week! Emailing your customers to let them know you have a sale going on or to let them know you’re offering free shipping is a fantastic way to spread the word.

Artist Shops pro tip: That GIF above shows you how to access your customers’ email info in your Dashboard!

An example of Facebook ad copy. The part highlighted in green is the headline (should be shortish!), the part highlighted in pink is the description (can be a little longer!) Ad features “Let’s Summon Demons” by Steven Rhodes.

Wording, Wording, Wording

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but let’s give words a little credit here. You’d be amazed at how much impact something as (seemingly) tiny as word count or wording has on sales, and there are a lot of areas this can come into play.


One of the reasons our $12 tee ads did so well is because the messaging was straight forward and highlighted that sweet $12 tee price. And one thing we’ve also found in ads is that including some urgency – “Hurry!” or “Don’t miss out!” – also does well. #FOMOanxiety

Brevity vs descriptiveness

When you’re emailing customers, keep that subject line short and sweet. Lance suggests keeping it under 30 characters (like extreme tweeting). BUT, when it comes to Facebook ads, while keeping your main headline (ex. “Gear up for Summer with $12 tees!”) short and sweet is key, Lance has found that having a little more info in the description part of ads is proving to help a lot as well (see the Facebook ad above!)

How you word a sale

The way you word a sale can impact how good a deal sounds. Yoast found that when it comes to discount psychology, people tend to be more driven to buy with the wording “Get $ off” vs “Save $”. Lance reports that mentioning the percentage or price point (like 50% off or $12 tees) tends to do really well, too. Experiment and see what works best for you!

Subject Lines

We’ve found a few interesting things for SLs:

  • Emojis work…but only if they’re at the end of the subject line (some peoples’ email doesn’t translate emojis well).
  • SLs related to the content (ex. “You gotta see this right meow…” for a new cat design) tend to do well if they’re fun.
  • People don’t love the word “shop” in an SL (ex. “Shop this new design!”) – too sales-y.

This is our list of top 5 things to do when running a sale! Do you have tips of your own? Leave them in the comments!

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Featured illustration by Katie Lukes.

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