Promotional discounts are a staple of good business, whether you're bricks and mortar commerce, or pure play ecommerce. The NetSuite platform has long supported the ability to set up and manage promotions that you can apply to sales orders and through the online store. However, we recognized that the features we were offering were a bit lacking, and it's why (in Elbrus and 17.1) we introduced SuitePromotions — a feature-rich re-imagining of what we think promotions on NetSuite should look like.
I want to talk about this because I think SuitePromotions offers a signficant improvement in capability over older 'standard' and 'advanced' promotions we use to offer. It also presents an excellent opportunity for us to discuss what promotions (in general) offer your business and your customers, maximizing the rewards for both you and them.
Why Bother With Promotions?
It's obvious isn't it? I mean, every business offers some sort of promotional discount. Why do we even need to talk about it? Well, humor me here: I think we can learn a bit from challenging our assumptions and thinking about exactly what we're doing.
Your organization isn't a charity (well, it might be) but you've got a bottom line to think about here: you're in it to sell your products and make money, not give away stuff for free. But the problem is that people like free stuff; people like discounts; people like the feeling of getting what they want, but at a price lower that what's advertised. Getting a good deal and saving money is a powerful motivator.
So promotions let you harness this feeling, or, perhaps, stoke it up. By offering a discount on an item, order or shipping, you're incentivising taking the plunge and ordering it. The knock-on effect of this is that shoppers who are sitting on the fence feel compelled to jump off and make a purchase. In other words, you get an order you ordinarily wouldn't have in exchange for a small cut into your margins.
But that isn't the only way you increase your sales: you can use promotions in a way that incentivises the purchase of additional items, or to move stock that's unpopular with shoppers. For example, rather than halving the price of an item, you could run a promotion that gives an additional one for free. You could run promotions to highlight unpopular lines — perhaps no one's buying them because they simply don't know about them and what better way to encourage people to take a look than by offering a financial incentive?
Reward Customer Loyalty
If you regularly run promotions then this can have a positive feedback effect on your customer base. Seeing, for example, that you offer deals that change weekly or monthly certainly encourages shoppers to check back frequently to take advantage of them.
What you've got to be wary of though is where your customers are placing this loyalty: are they being loyal to your brand or are they being loyal to the offers? This partly why so many sites send out their promo codes via an email newsletter: the type of person who signs up for your newsletter is the type of person who actively wants to hear from you (and isn't just in it for the discounts). This creates a level of exclusivity and further incentivises loyalty.
What SuitePromotions Offers
So SuitePromotions is what we're talking about here. We already offered pretty sophisticated configurations for promotions, so let's take a look at how we've improved things in Elbrus and 17.1:
- Stackable promotions — in other words, multiple promotions applied to one order where the discounts are cumulative. No longer do shoppers have to choose which promotion they want to apply. As the merchant, you get to decide which offers can be combined which ones are exclusive and which ones can be stacked.
- Best offer — if a promotion is exclusive but there are other promotions applied, the system will automatically pick the one that gives the greatest discount to the shopper.
- Improved UI — we've put a lot of work into the backend aspect of setting up promotions so that it's easier and clearer for merchants.
- Scabilitity and performance — modernization work 'under the hood' to ensure that the engine that drives it all is set to last in a fast and performant fashion for the forseeable future.
Promotions can be affect three areas of an order: its items, the order in general, and its shipping. Now, without further ado, let's take a look at setting up some promotions.
In NetSuite, head to Lists > Marketing > Promotions and select a promotion from the list under SuitePromotions.
Now, the first section contains the basic properties. The names and descriptions are usually not surfaced to the frontend, so it's not necessary to set something you need to worry too much about. However, for your records it's probably wise to set something appropriate and descriptive, so that it's easy to administer.
Next up is scheduling. This allows you to control precisely when the promotion should run for, which is perfect for seasonal sales: remember, one of your tools is exclusivity. If you encourage people to take advantage of an offer because it is valid only for a limited time, you're stoking the urgency of the situation. It can also be used in a 'set and forget' way: prepare your promotions in advance, set a schedule, and then you don't need to get one of your team to log into the control panel at midnight to flip a switch. Easy peasy. Of course, if you don't set any values it'll run indefinitely — if you want to turn it off, you can just toggle the Inactive checkbox.
Further settings: this is where the issue of stackability and exclusivity comes into play. The combining options let you control the detail: you select whether it is combinable or exclusive. You may also select a third option: type exclusivity. Selecting this option marks it as exclusive from other promotions of this kind but allows combining with other kinds of promotions. For example, you may want to set up a promotion that offer discounted shipping but you don't want it to combine with promotions that also discount shipping. However, you are happy if, say, a shopper wants both discounted shipping and discounted orange shirts. Heck, anything to shift these orange shirts, right?
After that, we take a look at what the customer needs to buy and what discount they get. You can look at these two sections in kind of a trigger/action relationship: what does the customer need to do to qualify for the promotion, and what happens when they do? Now, if you're discounting specific items and it doesn't matter if they buy other items then you can just select Buy Anything. For some promotions, you might want to specify specific things someone needs to buy before discounting other items. For example, "buy pants and get a belt half price". In cases like mine, where you're discounting the same item someone is buying, it doesn't matter what triggers it.
Now, a point that applies to both the trigger and action sections: saved searches are your friends here. Rather than having to specify each product individually, you can instead create a query to get the items and create the list automatically. In my example — where I'm trying to get rid off all of my orange products — I've created a saved search that lists all products that have orange as one of its options. With this information I can now finish off my promotion, which is to give a 50% discount on orange items. So I add in the discount rate and then select my list of orange things from the saved search dropdown.
Afterwards, it's just a case of setting up how you want to distribute this promotion to your shoppers (ie the coupon codes). Multiple use codes are typically used when there will be mass distribution: it's reusable among all your customers, or a group of them. Single use codes are deactivated when they are used once: in other words, each one is unique. While it's easier to use multiple use codes for marketing purposes, creating single use ones and then distributing a code to each customer can be a useful way to control the flow and access of a promotion. For example, there are plenty of websites that aggregate coupon codes, especially those not distributed widely: using unique codes for your promotions can limit that effect. In other words, they're great for email marketing campaigns.
Alternatively, if you don't mind if your coupon codes get distributed, you can just use multiple use one. Keep in mind, though, that the code(s) you set will be displayed on the frontend (so keep it clean and clear).
The final tabs concern additional access limits: customer groups, sales channels and usage limits. The final one is perhaps the one important to most of you: you can decide whether a customer can use the promotion more than once. Thus, in addition to specifying the codes associated with a promotion, you can also specify that (for example) even if a customer were to get their hands on another unique coupon code, they can't use it. This is also good with a multiple use coupon code: anyone can use the code, but it's one per customer.
After creating the promotion, you can test it out. If you want to test (and allow) the use of stackable promotion codes then make sure you head over to the configuration and enable it; it's in the Shopping Catalog tab. Then just add some products to the cart (including ones from the saved search — or however you're specifying them) and add the promo code. What you should see is the appropriate items discounted, while non-qualifying items not discounted. Note one of the limitations of the system (at the time of writing) is that line-by-line discounts are not available (ie, you'll have to do math to see which items have discounted).
Migrating to SuitePromotions
One of the good things about SuitePromotions is that your site can run them, older standard, and advanced promotions at the same time — but there are limitations. The key limitation is that while they can run concurrently on a site, they cannot be used on the same order. Remember: the ability to stack promotions is purely something available only in SuitePromotions.
Once you have SuitePromotions installed and set up, you can begin the migration process. What this entails is simply replacing older promotions with SuitePromotions. Once you no longer have any non-SuitePromotions promotions left, then you've completed the migration process.
Promoting Your Promotions
Once you've got your promotions set up, you need to think about how you're going to let your customers know about them.
I've mentioned exclusivity a bit already, so the audience and propogation need to be at the forefront of your mind.
- Front and center — if you're going to offer your promotion indiscriminately to your customers then why not plaster it all over your home page? A little while ago, I wrote about how you could add a promotional drawer to your site: you could use something like this to make adding promotion codes easier, or to highlight categories which are being discounted. For these you can use multiple use, unrestricted promotions.
- Business class — offer your newsletter recipients something special by telling them about a promotion. Perhaps run a saved search on people who have ordered something within the last 90 days and send them a gentle nudge with a promotion code. This way you're rewarding your 'loyal' customers.
- Velvet rope — employing similar tactics to the above, you could consider swapping in unique, single-use codes. You could (and probably should) accompany it with text mentioning that it is exclusive, unique and single-use so that they don't share it with their friends.
Don't forget, too, about the power of social media: you can use different coupon codes for different channels to measure their effectiveness and reach.
Here I'm thinking about the spread of a promotion after you've put it out there in the way you intended. For example, I mentioned promo code websites: if you put out a promo code, how soon before it ends up on one of those sites? You need to consider the impact of what would happen when a promotion you intended to be exclusive gets out. Remember, there is no security in obscurity, so if you're keen to lock down the promotion, make sure you employ some sort of method in NetSuite to achieve this such as unique codes or specifying the applicable audience.
Don't forget that you can see how well your promotions are doing by going to Reports > Sales Orders > Sales Orders by Promotion. Here you can get a report of every promotion used within a specific timeframe: this will give you vital information about your sales and you can use it to discover whether they are being effective. For example, are you generating additional orders? Is the value of your orders going up? Are you getting new customers?
Perhaps for some of these functions you might need more detailed reporting. For this, don't forget that you can create saved searches using promotions as the record type to refine by.
For example, if you go to Lists > Searches > Saved Searches, you can create a new saved transaction search. From here, you can specify your new promotion as the criteria and return a list of orders that have used it, eg:
Which results in something like this:
The changes to promotions, in the form of SuitePromotions, bring in a whole host of new functionality and flexibility that you can take advantage of. I've run through some of the ways you can take advantage of them; some of them are 'invisible', such as promotion stacking. But the changes give you an opportunity to do some spring cleaning of your existing promotions and migrate the ones you want to keep over to SuitePromotions. Remember: only SuitePromotions can take advantage of the new features, and migrating is pretty painless, so it's worth doing sooner rather than later.
We looked at how you can use saved searches twice: first in determining the 'trigger' or 'action' of a promotion (ie what items can cause the discount to be applied, and what it can be applied to). In my example, I used it to target orange colored garments, but given the flexibility of saved searches, you can use virtually any item attribute. The other way we looked at saved searches was in a 'reporting' way. Using saved searches you can return a list of orders that have used a specific promotion, and you can use this to see the effectiveness and reach of your promotions.
On that note, when starting a promotions campaign, keep in mind all the channels you have available to you: your website, direct marketing, social media, advertising, etc, and consider how you're going to use these channels. If you want, you can run the same campaign through multiple channels but with different promotions and coupon codes: this'll give you a sense of how much people are engaging with your campaigns and business.
You can also take advantage of features that can widen or narrow the scope of a campaign: you can make something more exclusive by limiting the audience, choosing a narrower marketing channel, or simply by making coupon codes unique or single use. By making a promotion more exclusive, you obviously limit the number of people who can use it and this has some benefits: firstly, the feeling in the shopper who feels like their loyalty or savviness is being rewarded; it also reduces your liabilities by ensuring that fewer people get discounted items. But the flipside is that you encourage fewer people to visit and engage with your site, and everyone loves discounts.
Ultimately, how you do this is up to each business to decide. The trick is finding the right balance: indiscriminate discounting is probably bad for your business, but offering no discounts at all could mean that you're missing sales opportunities. Free shipping promotions are usually very popular and may be a good place to start, especially for retailers. B2B sites may want to look into how they might identify and reward loyal customers: again, saved searches could be a useful tool to identify them.