Discount & Promotional Email Examples

Discount and promotional emails can help boost revenue when used in the right way, at the right times.

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Discounts and other types of promotions can give your sales a proper boost and a great way to communicate them is – you’ve got it – via email.

While discount emails can help drive purchases, they can also lower the value of an average sale and eat into a company’s profit, especially when customers get them so often they become reluctant to buy without a discount. In other words: discount and promotional emails shouldn’t be sent too often.

But how exactly do we define promotional email?

What is a Promotional Email?

Promotional emails aim to increase awareness about your products, sell them, and/or boost customer loyalty and engagement. Their purpose is to turn subscribers into customers and customers into loyal fans. They’re a crucial part of your email marketing as their purpose is to increase conversions.

In a study by SaleCycle, 59% of respondents said that promotional emails influence their purchase decisions. Over 50% said that they make a purchase through a promotional email at least once per month.

So how do you write this type of well-converting email? We’ve listed some strategic recommendations below, including actual promotional email examples for you below.

Discount and Promotional Email Strategies

Discount emails shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all email strategy but can help boost sales periodically. Think of ways to integrate discount emails into existing strategies, like win-back campaigns. Here are a few content ideas to get started:

Give a time limit and provide urgency

A sale should only last for a limited time and drive urgency for customers to purchase a product now vs. later. For example, natural home and body shop, Thistle Farms, uses urgency with emojis in this flash sale email subject line and a sale deadline clearly defined within the email. This helps drive more traffic to the website as well as purchases.

It’s easy to get lost in the number of examples for this recommendation. Use MailCharts advanced reporting metrics to understand what makes the email successful. In the example above, Thistle Farms excels at email weight, GIF usage, and optimized pre-header text, but they miss the mark in terms of mobile optimization.

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Add intrigue by creating mystery sale discounts

Nothing piques a customer’s interest quite like a mystery sale that comes along with a special discount just for them. Is it 50% off? 30% off? Or maybe 20%? Build-A-Bear Workshop uses a clever ‘spin the wheel’ image within their mystery email. Using appealing images and gifs entices shoppers to click to see their deal which results in traffic and potentially a sale on site.

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Use the rule of 100 to help determine or test your subject line

This is a rule that follows the psychology of pricing. For items under $100, using percentage discounts seem larger. For items over $100, a dollar amount discount seems larger. For instance, Jessica Simpson Sunglasses typically are less than $100, so offering a percentage off makes the deal appear larger than it is. For a larger retailer like a furniture wholesaler, this may not make as much sense as offering a dollar discount.

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Focus on providing inspiration

Artifact Uprising created an inspirational discount email – they suggested different ideas on how to use the products that currently get 20% off. We love the creative CTAs that they included next to each product recommendation.

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Send more than one email

You can send more than one email during an ongoing campaign and remind the customer about the expiration date. Julep reminded the customer that the discount offer expires in less than 12 hours and linked the clearance page. To create a sense of urgency, Julep added an animated timer at the top of their promotional email.

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Remind the customer that it’s time to reorder

Combine the deal with a replenishment email and encourage the customers to complete a repeat purchase. Pet supplies company Chewy asked customers if they are “Running Low?” in the subject line and included a free shipping deal for orders over $49.

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Simplify the purchase process

Make the purchasing process straightforward and include helpful links and filters in your discount emails. Dockers sent an email that focuses on the pants sale and listed available sizes. The customer is taken to the page with pre-selected filters from where they can add pants to the cart.

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Mention the discount in the subject line

Capture customers’ attention by mentioning the promotional offer in the subject line and increase chances for making the purchasing decision. Everlane said “Free 2-Day Shipping? Nice.” in their subject line and in the email they included popular product recommendations.

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Use real-life photos

Clothing brand Petite studio offered premium products on a $200 discount and used photos from social media to share outfit ideas and encourage customers to purchase the items. This is also a good strategy to promote your social channels and invite customers to engage with the community.

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Include gift guides

Include the gift guide in the promotional email and let the customer know that they can save on gifts for the upcoming events. Puma suggested gifts for the upcoming holiday season and offered a generous 40% discount.

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Welcome new subscribers with a discount

This Case-Mate welcome email does just that. The subject line instantly tells the user they’re getting a discount because they’ve just signed up and the promotional email itself clearly puts this discount code front and center. To make it easier for the subscriber to start shopping, Case-Mate put links to their different product categories right below the eye-catching image. They make it super easy for new subscribers to become new customers.

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Organize seasonal promotions

With the line “Going faster than your Easter eggs” both in the preview text and the email copy, Coast creates a holiday-relevant sense of urgency. We all know we finish those chocolate eggs just a little faster than we should, but Coast’s dresses are selling out even more quickly. The feeling of urgency is increased by making the offer valid for only a limited time.

The suggestion to have “one more treat” refers just as much to having another Easter sweet as it does to buying a dress. If the recipient is a bit of a sweet tooth, this promotional email is bound to make them smile and take action.

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Include a special offer

This discount offer email by jewelry brand Isabelle Grace promotes only their bestselling necklace. The subject line is super clear about their offer and adds a sense of urgency by making the offer limited-time-only. The email itself showcases the necklace and adds social proof through customer reviews.

To tone down the promotional aspect a bit, the email is sent from claudia@isabellegracejewelry.com and signed by Claudia. This way, it almost feels like a message from someone you know. Because of that approach, it makes sense that the call-to-action is just text and not a button. The bigger, bolder, and brighter font does make it stand out.

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Highlight product launches and new arrivals

Promotional emails don’t always need to be flashy. It all depends on who you’re targeting and with this new products email, Macmillan Publishers is clearly targeting the history buffs on their email list. The publisher is not just recommending any new history books either. These books are from a best-selling author, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and other writers-to-watch.

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Have subscriber and members-only offers

This promotional email from CreativeLive reads like a message to a friend. Aside from the CreativeLive header and the bright blue call-to-action, it doesn’t contain any visual elements. The copy is written from an “I” perspective, just like you would write an email to someone you know, and while it doesn’t emphasize the member-only aspect, the subject line clearly does.

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Don't forget your customers' birthdays

Birthdays are the perfect moments to send your email subscribers a discount or other special offers so they can treat themselves… by buying from you. Simply by using the recipient’s first name and sending your promotional email at the right time, you can make it feel personalized. Athletics brand Asics does just that by speaking to Eduardo directly in the subject line of the discount email shown here.

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These strategies are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of discount emails. Looking for something specific? Utilize MailCharts advanced search to discover more discount emails from similar brands and get inspiration for your email marketing strategy.

Discount and Promotional Email Implementation Details

Now that we’ve got our content covered, how are these emails actually implemented? Get creative with segmentation and personalize emails when possible for that extra touch of magic✨:

Offer different discounts for different people

Keep in mind that for frequent purchasers, a discount usually doesn’t matter as much as it does to the infrequent shopper. Consider segmenting lists and discounts based on engagement with the brand. For those who haven’t placed orders in the past 6 months, consider a larger discount than say, shopper Suzie who buys 10 sweaters every month.

Setup A/B testing within the email service provider (ESP)

Some of the strategies suggested above require setting up A/B tests. Most ESPs include this feature, but it’s important to test a large enough group to get statistical significance. This can be calculated outside of an ESP using an online Chi-Square test tool.

Personalize with customer tokens when you can

When you collect the names of those on your email list, you can pull customer names into the email copy and subject lines to make the discount seem more personal, especially to create intrigue for mystery sales.

Craft promising subject lines (and then deliver)

There are a lot of ways you can write great ecommerce subject lines but all of these tactics have two things in common:

  1. Your subject lines need to be interesting/enticing/clear enough to make the user open the email.
  2. Your subject lines should only promise what’s being delivered within the email.

Being able to create a click-worthy subject line is one thing. Making sure the user doesn’t then get disappointed when reading your email is another. It’s often better to make them curious and pleasantly surprise them when they open your promotional email than it is to write a sensational subject line when you’re only going to offer them free shipping for a week.

Don't forget the preview text

Oftentimes neglected, your preheader will show as the preview text in many inboxes. It could mean the difference between an open and a delete. A good preheader complements the subject line and functions on its own once the email has been opened.

Have one clear main call-to-action

Promotional emails should always have one clear call-to-action. Sure, you can ask subscribers to forward your promotional email to a friend, to join your loyalty program, or to follow you on Instagram, but those are usually actions you’d like them to take in case they don’t do the main thing you want them to do: buy from you.

Optimize for Gmail annotations

Since Gmail rolled out the Promotional tab back in 2013, many email marketers have tried to convince subscribers to move their promotional emails to the inbox. Unfortunately, whether subscribers do or don’t do that isn’t something you can control.

What you can control, is how your promotional email looks when it does land in that Promotional tab.

In 2019, Gmail introduced Annotations for promotional emails. These allow you to set and highlight your shop logo, a deal label, a discount code, an end date for your deal, and an image preview.

Done right, these annotations increase the chance that your promotional emails will be ranked as a “Top Deal” at the top of the Promotions inbox by Google. Whether they actually do, also depends on Google’s filtering mechanism as well as how much your subscribers engage with your promotional emails.

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