Everyone loves a bargain.
Buying something you’ve had your eye on for a while—and saving a bunch of money in the process—gives you an instant feeling of gratification.
It turns out those “smart-shopper feelings” are well-understood—and they don’t just apply to that T.V. you bought last Black Friday.
Offering discounts and coupons on your digital products can be a great way to increase revenue and reward loyal customers. A creatively crafted discount offer can push customers who might still be on the fence to buy or encourage existing customers to buy again or share your products with their audience.
The only problem? Most discounting advice you’ll find is aimed at brands selling physical products—it’s confusing at best and misleading at worst. Use discounts the wrong way, and you can hurt your brand and ruin your sales.
So let’s set the record straight: Discounting works for digital products as well. A creative discount offer can help you grow your audience, reward loyal customers, and create a sustainable income—as long as you’re strategic about it.
To help you get started, we’re sharing seven creative ways you can use discounts to sell your digital products—but before we dive in, let’s learn a little more about why discounting works so well.
The psychology of discounting: Why everyone loves a deal
Offering an additional incentive to buy can help convince potential customers to purchase your course, ebook, or other product. But discounting isn’t only about price—in fact, two other factors—urgency and status—are far more likely to drive customers to open their wallets.
Urgency helps drive new customers
Most discounts aimed at new customers rely on urgency or loss aversion.
Humans have a strong inherent desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain and potential loss. When a discount is only available for a short period—a closed-cart product launch, for example, or a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal—prospects know that if they don’t buy before the discount expires, they’ll miss out on saving some money.
That desire to avoid a potential loss is what makes discounts so desirable. For example, a limited-time offer can push potential buyers who might otherwise stay on the fence to buy now instead of later. A survey from RetailMeNot found that 80% of potential customers were encouraged to make a first-time purchase with a new brand if they found an offer or discount.
And those small wins have a genuine impact on our happiness. A 2012 study led by Dr. Paul J. Zak, a Professor of Neuroeconomics at Claremont Graduate University, discovered that sharing a $10 voucher with participants increased their oxytocin levels by 38% and made them happier, more relaxed, and less stressed. Even small discounts can have significant effects.
Pro tip: Consider how your wording of the discount you’re offering drives urgency or loss aversion. For instance, “Get $ off” emphasizes achieving a gain, while “Save $” emphasizes avoiding a loss. You should test which kind of wording works best for your specific audience.
Status helps retain existing customers
Short-term promotions help drive new customers—but can you use discounts to share value with your best customers?
Yes—but building loyalty requires a slightly different approach. Discounts aimed at existing customers rely more on the human desire for status and rewards. It turns out that the more people engage with your content, emails, and products, the more they feel they’re deserving of something in return—even if those rewards are entirely random. Known as the Lucky Loyalty Effect, it means that offering a discount or reward to your most loyal customers can drive them to engage even further, promote your products to their audience, and spend more.
Let’s say you’re launching your first online course. You might decide to offer one hour of free coaching to three people who purchase within the first week after launch—or you could give past customers early access to your course at a discounted price.
The Lucky Loyalty Effect is why loyalty programs and affiliate programs can work wonders for online creators. Offering discounts to your most loyal customers and promoters shows how much you appreciate them, making them even more loyal and profitable for your brand.
Pro tip: Check out three more ways to create urgency around your product launch in this blog post from ConvertKit creator Sean McCabe.
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Seven types of discounting for creators to increase revenue
There are many creative ways you can use discounts to help you gain sustainable income. You could offer a limited-time deal to new customers, grow your audience by using your discount as a marketing tool, bundle your products at a discounted rate, pre-sell a product, reward your most loyal subscribers, or piggyback your discounts on well-known holidays.
Let’s look at seven different types of discounting you can use to sell more digital products:
#1: Attract new customers
A carefully chosen promotional price can help push prospective customers to open their wallets—even if they’ve never bought from you before. There’s value in keeping things simple—after all, the less you have to explain to potential customers, the more likely they will be to buy. Discount codes are easy to distribute, and both methods help drive urgency and push customers to buy.
Try offering a straightforward discount code—either as money off (for example, $20 off the purchase price) or as a percentage off your product’s cost (for example, 10% off a purchase). By only offering the discount for a limited time, you’ll motivate them to act now instead of waiting until the offer expires.
How do you know whether to offer money off or a percentage discount? Follow the Rule of 100:
- If your product costs less than $100, offer a percentage discount.
- If your product costs more than $100, offer a dollar discount.
When Matt Ragland launched his online course Start A Journaling Habit, he offered early buyers a coupon for $20 off the launch price:
How to set up discounting in ConvertKit Commerce
Start by clicking Products in the top menu, then click New Product. Give your product a name, choose a pricing method and give it a starting price.
If you’re discounting, you can enter a lower price than the original price and position your wording in your product description around the discount offer.
Next, upload the actual digital product files you’ll be selling. You can upload as many files as you want.
Finally, choose a domain name and page URL you’ll use when sharing your product with others.
From there, you’ll be redirected to a page where you can edit and customize your product page, checkout page, confirmation page, and email receipt your buyers will receive. Again, if you’re offering this as a discounted product, be sure to position your wording around the discount offer in your product page’s headline and subtitle.
When you’re finished with customizing, you’ll click Save, Publish, and then choose whether you want to share it via a link with other people or embed a product button right on your website.
Pro tip: Make sure your discount is valuable for customers to take advantage of it. Don’t offer $2 off a $100 product—make sure your offer is desirable to get customers excited.
#2: Grow your audience and increase awareness
Discounting also makes for a great promotional tool. Whether you’re a new brand looking to grow your audience or an established creator ready to grow your customer base, you can use strategic discounts to help get the word out about your products or services.
For example, NoCode Notion, a website selling resource kits and community memberships for makers using Notion to launch new products offered a 20% discount only to members of a specific Facebook group. In exchange, the group organizers helped promote their new product to group members, who ended up becoming the #1 source of customers in the week following their launch.
Another excellent example of using discounts as a promotional pricing tool comes from online bedding retailer Brooklinen. Right before Black Friday in 2017, the brand “leaked” a time-limited discount to their subscribers, posing the deal as an accidental email from an unsuspecting digital marketing intern. The email ended up going viral and leading the brand to one of their best sales days of the year.
Just remember: Always use discounts sparingly. Leaning too heavily on deals to grow your audience can hurt your brand— customers start to expect a discount before they buy, preventing them from buying at the regular price and encourages them to look for potential deals from your competitors.
#3: Reward your most loyal customers and subscribers
As we saw earlier, discounting doesn’t have to be limited to new buyers. When you offer exclusive discounts to your existing customers and subscribers, they feel loyal and connected to your brand—and they’ll spend more on your products and services.
Tell me if any of these sound familiar:
- “Refer five friends, and we’ll give you 25% off your next months’ subscription.”
- “Buy two, get one free!”
- “Here’s another product we think you’ll like—add it to your cart at 50% off.”
- “You left products in your cart—here’s a 10% coupon if you check out today.”
Your discount doesn’t have to be complicated. Try creating a promo code for your products or services, and place it within your receipt or welcome emails. Or share a special discount with subscribers or patrons, like muralist and ConvertKit creator Eric Friedensohn did when he launched his ecommerce store:
If you’re lucky, those subscribers and customers will also promote your offer to their network of friends and followers. Customers get rewarded with exclusive savings—and you get more subscribers, sales, and revenue. Everyone wins!
#4: Bundle products at a discount
This tactic only applies to those selling more than one product, but it’s a great way to boost your revenue quickly.
Product bundling is when you offer customers a discount for buying two or more of your products simultaneously. Bundling works because customers feel like they’re getting more value for their money while increasing the number of products you sell.
Let’s say you have templates you’ve built to simplify your client work, like how fellow ConvertKit writer Kaleigh Moore sells templates for freelance writers. You could sell these templates individually for $49 each—or you could bundle them up and sell them all together at a discount as Kaleigh does.
The best part of bundling? You can increase your revenue without increasing your workload. Nice!
#5: Launch or pre-sell new products
Discounts can also help build initial interest around new products. Sometimes called penetration pricing, you can offer buyers a discount if they buy your ebook, course, or other digital product before you launch. In exchange, you get valuable feedback and testimonials you can use when you launch.
Business coach and podcaster Jay Clouse, for example, recently offered his Twitter followers the chance to purchase a new course on podcasting before he even made the course. If ten people pre-ordered, he would make the course (and his early buyers would get it for a hefty discount)—if not enough people bought, he would return the money to those who did.
The key to a successful pre-launch discount? Make sure you set a closing date on the offer—that way, customers have an incentive to buy now instead of waiting until you launch.
Pro tip: Make sure you’re still turning a profit, especially when offering a discount. Know the value of your course before you start, consider production costs, ongoing operational costs, and your own time spent managing the sale when determining how low you can go.
#6: Celebrate milestones
Important milestones—both for your customers and your business—are great opportunities to celebrate with a revenue-generating discount.
You can say thanks to loyal subscribers by offering discounts on milestones related to your brand, such as your business anniversary or reaching a certain number of subscribers. For example, marketer Ross Simmonds celebrated reaching 22,000 Twitter followers by offering 22 people the chance to buy his Growth & Traction Kit for only $22:
Online educator Jack Butcher used a similar tactic, celebrating reaching 50,000 Twitter followers by offering a $50 discount on his ebook Build Once, Sell Twice until he reached 51,000 followers:
ConvertKit makes it easy to set up an automation to automatically send subscribers a discount code celebrating a year since they joined your list.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with when you offer discounts—be creative!
#7: Piggyback on seasonal discounts and holidays
Timing is everything when it comes to discounts. Big brands like Amazon create massive interest around holiday periods and sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday every year, offering steep discounts on many of their products for only a few days. In 2018, consumers spent more than $20 billion on the BFCM weekend alone—and that number will only continue to rise.
If you’re selling digital products, these events are perfect opportunities to boost your sales. Consumers are already on the lookout for great deals, making it the ideal time to offer discounts on your products and attract new customers. Your customers won’t need to wait in line—they can buy your ebooks, courses, and other products from the comfort of their couch.
Even if the holiday season isn’t the peak selling season for your business, consider discounting your products to coincide with the rush in demand. Use a landing page to start building your email list during the run-up to the holidays, and schedule your promotional emails in advance.
Your customers—and your bank account—will thank you.
Pro tip: If you’re behind on your holiday email planning, check out email expert Samar Owais’ five tips for maximizing your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales promotions with email.
Sell more products using discounting today
Discounting is an excellent way of increasing your revenue, growing your audience, and rewarding loyal customers. Just make sure the discount you’re offering is simple, profitable for you, and selective when it comes to how long the duration of that discount lasts, and you’ll be well on your way to happy customers—and a happy bank balance.
One last thing: ConvertKit Commerce might only take a few clicks to start discounting your digital products—but your audience won’t know about your discounts unless you tell them! Email marketing is the perfect way to promote your digital products and share your deals with your audience.
If you haven’t already, sign up for a free ConvertKit account, and start selling your first discounted product today!