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How to Use Limited‑Time Offers to Drive Sales

Use limited‑time offers in your digital marketing to boost sales, increase website visitors, and improve customer loyalty.

You’ve probably toyed with the idea of using a limited-time offer to boost sales. After all, who doesn’t love a good discount? But remember, savvy shoppers want real sales, not gimmicks. Sneaky countdown timers that constantly reset themselves, false limited-edition claims, and never-ending limited-time sales just don’t cut it anymore.  

Now more than ever, your offers must be authentic, transparent, and valuable. Otherwise, you risk not only missing out on immediate sales but also damaging long-term customer loyalty and trust. So, how can you craft a compelling limited-time offer? Use this guide to learn the latest tips and tricks.   

How limited-time offers work to drive more sales

A limited-time offer is a special promotion that is only available for a short period. The duration varies from seasonal offers spanning several weeks to flash sales that wrap up in mere hours. The nature of the deal can also differ. Sometimes, it’s a price discount. Other times, it’s a free gift or limited-edition product.

All limited-time offers create a sense of urgency, suggest scarcity, and trigger the fear of missing out (FOMO). This pushes customers to make faster purchasing decisions and buy now instead of later. If done right, this approach can boost sales and build brand loyalty.

However, it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of using these tactics without delivering real value. For example, a business may artificially inflate product prices before a sale to offer a bigger discount. Or advertise a limited-time sale on a premium online subscription despite offering the deal year-round.

Even if these tactics seem effective at first, they make customers lose trust in the business over time. More often than not, sales tricks don’t work because word has spread about these deceptive practices. So, giving customers something valuable when running a limited-time offer is essential.

Limited-time offer examples customers cannot resist

When using limited-time offers, you’ll find that they’ll typically fall into 3 main categories: the limited-time sale, limited-inventory promotion, and free shipping offer. Here are some limited-time offer examples to consider.  

The limited-time sale

You’re browsing a company’s entire site when a flash sale notice pops up, offering huge discounts for the next hour. The countdown timer starts ticking to let you know these discounts won’t last long. You only have a limited time to browse the offers, load up your cart, and check out before the sale ends.  

Limited-inventory promotion

Imagine stumbling upon a one-of-a-kind item while shopping a boutique’s exclusive collection. But there’s a catch: Only a few are left in stock and once they sell out, they’re gone forever. Are you going to hurry to buy the product or miss out on your only chance to own that item?

Free shipping offer

Upon navigating to your favorite company’s website, you see a banner stating that there’s free shipping for this weekend only. The items you were thinking about purchasing soon are much more tempting to buy now, knowing that you’ll save on shipping costs.  

17 ways to entice new and existing customers with limited-time deals

When you take the time to create valuable promotions, new and existing customers will automatically look to your business for all the latest offers. While that may sound challenging, it’s a strategy that pays off. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, either. Here are 17 ways to build a limited-time offer for improved sales and brand loyalty.  

Time your offers to happen around the holiday season

People love to shop during the holidays. It’s a festive time full of gift giving, celebrations, and quality time with family and friends. And it’s a particularly effective time to run your own limited-time offers.

Psychological triggers, like the joy of giving and societal expectations associated with gift giving, drive people to shop more and increase their spending limits. Moreover, the holidays naturally amplify the sense of urgency and scarcity that makes limited-time offers so tempting.

Create valuable offers by bundling products or services together at a discounted rate. You could also offer exclusive holiday-themed items or packaging to create a unique and memorable holiday shopping experience. Build an email marketing strategy to keep customers in the loop about upcoming sales.

Display a countdown timer for your seasonal sales

Displaying a countdown timer for your seasonal sales sets a clear deadline and encourages people to buy now. By letting people know exactly when the sale starts and ends, it creates that powerful sense of urgency that drives sales.

If your offer just says, “For a limited time only,” your customers won’t feel compelled to act quickly. A ticking timer visually reminds people of the time left, pushing them to make a purchase before the deal expires.

Countdown timers work well on display banners and product pages, but they’re even more effective in email marketing. For example, when The Diamond Store used a countdown timer for their Black Friday email campaign, open rates nearly doubled and conversion rates increased by 400%.

Run a first-time purchase offer for new customers

Getting people to make their first purchase at your online store can feel challenging. Unless they know your company, they may hesitate to spend money on your products or services. You can get them past that hump with a first-time purchase offer.

The offer can be a generously discounted price, free shipping, or a special gift. You could even provide extra loyalty points for your customer rewards program that they can spend on exclusive products, services, or experiences.

Just make sure the new customer offer is valuable enough to give them a reason to buy. Adding a time limit would then generate the urgency to spur them to become your customer sooner rather than later.

Provide your email subscribers with exclusive early access

Your email subscribers have already shown interest in your business and are receptive to your communications. So, why not reward their loyalty with exclusive early access to sales, new product launches, and special events?

It’s a win-win for both of you. The sneak peek makes your subscribers feel valued, while the exclusivity can drive urgency and excitement. This winning combination increases the chance of landing the sale and creates a lasting connection with your customers.

To deliver even more value, use data analytics to personalize the daily deals and shopping experience. Also, add extra incentives, like an extended return policy, for shopping early in the exclusive sale window. 

Work limited-time offers into your loyalty program

A well-run loyalty program is all about rewarding customers and encouraging repeat purchases. By working limited-time offers into your program, you boost member engagement and give people another reason to shop with you.

A great example of this is tripling loyalty points for transactions completed during the limited-time sale. Another tactic could be offering a flash redemption day where their points have double the value for just 24 hours.

Aim to strike a balance between offering value and creating urgency when building limited-time offers. To do this successfully, generate excitement through emails, SMS messages, and push notifications without being overly aggressive or insistent.  

Host flash sales with deep discounts for a few hours only

Flash sales are a great tool for increasing sales. Offering big discounts for a limited time period can quickly get people talking about your business and visiting your website in record numbers. It also triggers impulse buys by tapping into consumers’ desire for exclusive discounts.

For the best results, only run a few of these lightning sales a year. If you roll them out too often, they won’t feel as special, which diminishes their impact. Additionally, limit each sale period to around 3 hours. This sweet spot delivers the highest transaction rates of nearly 15%.

Since these offers only last a limited time, your advertising has to be on point to ensure their success. Use all available channels to spread the word, including social media, email marketing, and retargeting ads.

Introduce a spend more, save more tiered discount system

Regularly offering a spend more, save more tiered discount system is a smart move. With this system, customers get increasing discounts based on their spending. For example, spending $50 might get them a 10% discount, while a $200 purchase gets 25% off.  

People close to the next tier often add another item to the cart, even if that means they spend more money overall. Consequently, this approach increases transactions while also boosting the average order value.

However, it’s important to remember that the spend more, save more system loses its allure if offered too frequently. It works best when used strategically, like when launching a new product, to encourage more customers to increase their spending.  

Collaborate with influencers and complementary brands

What’s more enticing than savings from a company you love? Many would argue it’s collaborative collections from companies teaming up with popular influencers or complementary companies. The partnership generates buzz and adds authenticity to your offerings.

For example, people couldn’t get enough when makeup brand MAC teamed up with pop icon Rihanna to create the limited-edition RiRi Hearts MAC collection. And the ’80s inspired swag flew off the shelves when Levi’s had their special collection in collaboration with the Netflix series, Stranger Things.

Ensure your limited-time deal hits the mark by choosing partners whose values mirror your own. Then, build excitement with sneak peeks and polls to build anticipation before you roll out the offer.

Offer a limited-time promotion using exit-intent popup windows

Over 70% of shoppers abandon their carts while shopping online, often deterred by unexpected extra costs. Exit-intent popups can reverse their course by serving as a last-minute sales pitch.

By presenting a limited-time offer just as the customer is about to leave, these popups get them to reconsider their decision. This strategy addresses concerns about extra costs while renewing their interest in the products they nearly left behind.

The exit-intent popup must have an eye-catching design and actionable, easy-to-read copy to have the desired effect. It must also speak directly to the customer’s needs and highlight the offer’s value.

Give customers a free gift with each transaction

People love free stuff. The allure of getting something for nothing is rooted in the zero-price effect. Essentially, when the price drops to zero, the item’s value skyrockets in consumers’ minds.

So, when you offer a free gift with each transaction, customers feel they’re getting more bang for their buck. The effect is multiplied when you only provide the gift for a limited time to—you guessed it!—create a sense of urgency.

Offer the most value by sending a free gift that perfectly complements the purchased product. For example, a makeup company might include a high-quality makeup brush when consumers buy eyeshadow or foundation. Spice up the deal even more with free shipping.

Promote limited-time future offers in post-purchase emails

Well-crafted post-purchase emails get customers excited about their orders while serving as a heartfelt thank-you note. But why stop there? They’re also prime real estate for your upcoming limited-time sales.

By sending a preview of what’s next, you can tap into the customer’s current engagement and inspire them to make a return visit. This fosters anticipation about savings opportunities and shows that you offer genuine value.

For the most impact, align the upcoming offer with the purchase. If your customer buys a laptop, share information about a flash sale on laptop accessories to pique their interest.

Use limited quantities to spark huge interest in your offers

The scarcity principle works wonders in marketing. The perceived value of an item increases when it’s seen as scarce. Plus, limited supply also triggers FOMO, driving customers to act quickly to avoid missing their chance to buy the product.  

While this approach taps into human behavior, it’s crucial to use it responsibly. Creating artificial shortages or using the scarcity tactic too often can diminish trust in your company. People might not believe your claims of limited-edition items or special offers, resulting in decreased sales.  

To avoid that, make sure to offer items that are truly limited in quantity or availability. Also, use this marketing approach sparingly, saving it for special occasions like product launches, anniversaries, and holidays.

Send personalized email offers based on past transactions

Email personalization is key when crafting limited-time offers that make customers feel heard and valued. And it’s easy to do. You just have to tailor the promotions to each customer’s buying history to show that you’re paying attention to what they want from your business.

You could offer time-sensitive deals on complementary items to customers who recently bought a product. Or you might want to send a notice about an upcoming flash sale for upgrades on products bought 12 months or more ago. 

You don’t have to do this one at a time, either. Use your all-in-one marketing platform to build email segments and automate the personalized messages to send out regularly.

Use banners to advertise upcoming short-term sales   

Banners are your go-to solution whenever you want to make a splash with your short-term sales. With the right design, they instantly grab the customer’s attention and highlight the value of your limited-time offer.

Use the banners to advertise your limited-time offers by putting them on your website or within your email campaigns. Countdown timers make a big difference if you’d like to add a sense of urgency.

The banners must have an eye-catching design and concise messaging to work effectively. They should also be mobile friendly and allow customers to click through to a relevant landing page. If you want to be sure they’ll work as intended, consider using A/B testing to find your optimal banner designs.

Deliver discount codes to customers for sharing reviews 

The more positive reviews your company has, the more likely people are to buy something. While you cannot ask for positive feedback outright, you can get it by delivering the optimal experience and asking customers to share their reviews. Then, provide a limited-time coupon code as a token of appreciation.

With this approach, you get authentic feedback, which attracts more first-time shoppers than near-perfect reviews anyway. As an added benefit, the exclusive coupons often get previous customers to become repeat buyers.

When using this strategy, provide clear instructions on how to leave the reviews and collect their incentive. Encourage customers to leave feedback when the experience is fresh in their minds by attaching an expiration date to the offer.

Create a pop-up shop with lightning deals and other specials

Setting up a pop-up shop with lightning deals and other specials is a thrilling marketing strategy. These temporary stores generate unique excitement and inspire customers from far and wide to check out your offers.

The pop-up shop approach does require you to leave the digital space. You’ll need to find a physical location for your temporary store, such as a mall kiosk, vendor stand, or even a small corner in a restaurant or market. Aim to create an engaging experience with brilliant signage, interactive displays, and free samples.

Your lightning deals and other specials also need to stand on their own. They must be good enough to get people out the door and over to your temporary location. Don’t skimp on the marketing, either. Go big on advertising on social media, email campaigns, and your website.

Surprise customers with mystery discounts at checkout

You don’t always have to offer the biggest discount to get people to buy your products. Instead, you can leverage the element of surprise by offering mystery discounts only shown at checkout.

Macy’s does this quite effectively by secretly applying bonus discounts on specific items or an additional percentage off the total price. Customers don’t know how much they’ll save until they go to pay, motivating them to complete their transactions.

If you’d rather offer a mystery discount up front, have customers spin a wheel to get their discount and then send it to their email inbox. By doing it this way, you can also have them subscribe to your email list for additional chances to wow them with limited-time deals.

Leverage the power of time-sensitive offers

When used wisely, limited-time offers drive customers to act swiftly and buy your products before time runs out. As long as you skip the gimmicks and provide real value, these offers can increase sales and consumer loyalty. Although tricky to get right in this smart shopper era, once you figure out what works, it’ll leave a positive, lasting impact. So, roll up your sleeves, employ these strategies, and watch your sales skyrocket while building customer relationships that last.

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