ecommerce incentives

Drive conversions without discounting your revenue

Tired of handing out discounts? You aren’t alone. Many marketers nowadays feel like they are the new normal for ecommerce and no longer reserved for special occasional like a holiday weekend sale. Rather, online shoppers are expecting retailers to shell out a discount for any reason whatsoever. It’s Monday? Okay, here’s 10% off. Hey TGIF!, here is a free shipping code. Not to mention the one we are very familiar with, a “welcome discount” when signing up for email marketing. 

But while customer’s love them, they do eat into a brand’s bottom line. Maybe you’ve been told you can no longer offer discounts, or you are a brand that feels like a discount outside of major holidays would devalue the brand. Or maybe you are looking at the quarterly revenue report and thinking how nice it would be to have an extra 10% added to the bottom line. Whatever the case, it is always a good thing when you can increase revenue, and contrary to today’s ecommerce environment, it doesn’t always have to come in the form of discounts. 

Here are 5 strategies to drive conversions through your email marketing that do not involve a discount:


Free gift with purchase

Before you shake your head, we’re not talking about a BOGO (by one, get one free) offer. What we’re talking about is an offer for an additional item when a certain product has been purchased or when a dollar amount is spent on one order. 


Take a moment and think of an item that your brand might have an excess quantity of, maybe taking up space in your physical warehouse. It also doesn’t have to be a high end or even a large item. Maybe it’s as simple as a sticker, a pin or a patch. It can be a gift that is easily included within an order’s packaging and adds no additional shipping weight. It can also be an item for customers to show brand loyalty like a screen-printed t-shirt or a tote bag with your brand’s logo on it.


Promote standard incentives

Do you offer free shipping at a certain price point or offer shipping in general at no cost? How about free returns? Do you have a satisfaction guaranteed or your money back policy? Is your product manufactured in a way that is eco-friendly? Cruelty free? From local designers? Make sure your subscribers know all of these things!

Support independent businesses


Natural ingredients


Socially responsible


Today’s complex and conscious shopper may be looking for attributes like this in their shopping. If you offer them already, make sure the user knows through messaging in your email content. It can be as easy as a header at the top of an email showcasing these standard incentives that won’t take away from your revenue.

Similarly, if you feel tied down to your Welcome discount code, test its effectiveness out with Cortex’s Welcome flow incentive optimizer. This process allows you to A/B test incentives in the welcome series so that you can compare new users who receive a 10% off with users who only see your standard incentives, or to new users who see no incentive at all. You might be surprised to learn that you don’t always need a discount.


Cross-selling through product recommendations

This is an especially effective strategy to consider within the Ready to Buy stage which targets new and existing customers. It’s not incorrect to think that a customer of yours might have only visited one page of your website before making a purchase. In follow up marketing emails make sure they have knowledge of other products within your catalog. This can be easily done with dynamic merge tags within Cortex’s template builder. Once they have been implemented, the AI does all the work for you, dinging the right item for each customer based on their own browsing habits and purchase history. 


Targeted segmentation and email content

While Cortex will keep track of your users on their customer journey, placing them in particular stages, you can still use specific segmentation and email content as a strategy to reach your subscribers with hyper relevant emails. Here’s how:

-A super easy segmentation strategy is to target subscribers who have made a past purchase:


For those subscribers, use appreciate language thanking them for their support of your brand, they are a “VIP” in your eyes:


Another segmentation strategy could be to design emails targeted to a male vs female audience. Even if you don’t collect gender data from your subscribers Cortex’s AI can predict which gender a user is. A note here, make sure you know how your gender data is being passed over, sometimes it’s just an “M” or and “F”.


In your email design change up the hero image and non-dynamic product images within the email so that they speak more towards a male audience. Then do the same for a female audience.

For the “Male” segment

For the “Female” segment


This will make your emails more relevant to a subscriber, raising engagement by sending click’s back to your website which can help make for more conversions. 


Let’s talk about subject lines

Gut check time, are you sure your subscribers are opening the emails you send them? When was the last time you did a quick check in AI Stats and looked at the open rates for all of your stages, not just Promo or Smart Blast? Take a deeper look at that reporting and see what subject lines are performing better than others. More times than not there is a story to tell and a pattern with what drives your subscribers to open and email.

It could be time to brush off the creative side of your brain that handles clever syntax and update some subject lines. If you need help in doing so? We have a smart subject line builder to give you some extra ideas. Remember subject lines are automatically tested against one another and the system will account for new ones you add to a template, giving them a chance to perform. In the end the best performing subject line will receive the bulk of the sends for that template. The more people who open your email means the more chances to inform a subscriber of your brand and more opportunities to drive them back to your site to make a purchase and raise revenue.



Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to get your customers to continue buying from you without always sending them discounts. Discounts should still (and always will be) be a tool in your marketing toolbox, but knowing when to use discounts and being strategic with them is smart marketing. Even if you continue to use discounts, you can still implement some strategies outlined here. A standard incentive or relevant content is very important to online shoppers nowadays who have an abundance of options, so make sure to do all that you can to make your brand stand out.


Brought to you by Clayton Porter, Client Success Manager
Clayton works with a variety of clients at ReSci, implementing marketing strategies to ensure our clients are successful. He brings his experience from working with top brands at digital media agencies.


Feel confused or lost? Want more strategies? Contact the helpdesk, or reach out to your Client Success Manager and they’ll be happy to help!


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ReSci is a team of marketers and data scientists on a mission to democratize AI. We make powerful recommendations and predictions accessible to brands. Find out how we can help you connect with your customers.