Practical Ecommerce

Promotional Offers Can Create Prospects

For ecommerce websites, a sale is a desired outcome. However, in some cases, building a mailing list of interested prospects can also be very valuable. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the principles for developing a compelling offer to get visitors to convert in a non-financial transaction.

Principles of an Effective Offer

There are two important elements in creating an effective promotional offer. It should:

  1. Qualify the visitor.
  2. Be delivered at low cost to the merchant.

Perhaps you’ve visited websites that offer some sort of monthly drawing for a popular prize like an iPod. Such a drawing will help the website develop a list of prospects that would like an iPod, preferably a free one. My feeling is that this is primarily effective if you are selling iPods. Only an offer that directly relates to your products or services means that you are building a qualified mailing list.

The term “low cost” is a relative one. For some companies, an offer would have to be virtually free in order for it to be cost-effective, but for companies with high revenue per transaction (such as jewelry, household appliances and travel) a “low cost” offer could have an actual, and in some cases a significant, dollar value.

In addition, the perceived value of the offer must outweigh the amount and nature of the information asked for in exchange.

Types of Offers

Based on the nature of your business and the principles listed above, there is no single right offer to make. However, there are some common offers that we will examine below.

  • Information Offers. Information offers include items such as how-to guides, planning sheets or checklists. They can be particularly effective when your product or service includes an element of proprietary knowledge.

  • Free Trials. Free trials can be very compelling offers. After all, who doesn’t want something for free? However, free trials should only be used for products that are very easy to use and show results quickly.

  • Free Giveaways. These are perhaps my least favorite offers. Tainted by too many free giveaways over the last few years, many consumers view free giveaways as "too good to be true" and the offer can otherwise have "fine print" that puts visitors off.

  • Interactive Offers. Adding an interactive element to your website and then allowing registered visitors to access to it can be very effective. The nature of the interactivity should be very specific to your business and can range from product selection tools to online planning tools or calculators.

Ultimately, whatever offer you decide, you should carefully track the conversion metrics to make sure it’s effective. Sticking to the principles outlined above will help you to create an offer that is cost effective and benefits your company over the long term.

Mat Greenfield

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Legacy User March 13, 2008 Reply

    The perceived benefit for the potential customer is consistent with what one would expect…could test this easily with A/B/C versions to check responses before implementing a promotional offer fully.

    Since there is variance in perceived benefit, a practical approach would be to clearly distinguish the minimum required versus additional optional information requestions – allows collecting additional and useful information from those that don't mind providing more information in exchange for offer.

    — *Prof Perry*