How to send email newsletters to sell your old stock (without mentioning the word ‘sale’)

There are approximately 180 variants on the theme ‘we need to sell some of our old shit to free up cash’

‘Everything must go’ sounds too much like liquidation. That’s not a good thing.

‘Summer sale’ is a little repetitive when you see the same copy has been used for the ‘autumn sale’, ‘winter sale’ and ‘spring sale’. The only amendment being the inclusion of the stock photography pic of fallen leaves, snow on leaves or blossoming leaves. Just in case folks can’t associate with seasonality.

Selling old stuff is a problem.

Obviously, you don’t want to be seen as a discounting brand. This kills the success of new product launches. Why would your customer ‘buy now’ when there’s a discount on the horizon a few months down the road?

Let’s begin to recognise the fact that people will understand why a product has a % off sign next to it. You couldn’t sell it (or mismanaged stock levels) at full price.

So what’s wrong with a little honesty? Why the sale?

This stuff is old. It deserves a better home than the warehouse shelf it currently resides upon.

We can’t keep feigning the reason for ‘the sale’. People, for the the most part, aren’t stupid. And, please, put away any thoughts of the ‘sale due to popular demand’.

People appreciate honesty.

I like Bellroy’s approach. Bellroy are a dtc (direct-to-consumer) brand that make great wallets.

It’s a blend of scarcity (‘last chance to buy’) that disassociates from new, incoming stock (‘limited pieces. rare prices’.) and uses simple honest copy.

Email marketing, nurtured wisely, is a brilliant platform to sell old stock to a receptive audience (your audience).

Bellroy led with the subject line ‘Shop the limited Last Chance to Buy event while you can.’

Again, heavy emphasis on ‘last chance’. No mention of a sale.

The email continues;

No flashing ‘50% off’ HURRY! BUY NOW! buttons. Just the opportunity to shop at ‘rare prices’. ‘Rare’ initiates curiosity. Curiosity causes clicks. Clicks build interest. Interest delivers sales.

You don’t have to consign your old products to the ‘discount bin’. You can still sell, and sell well, staying classy.

I want you to consider your own approach to your next stock-shifting exercise. To do this, I want you to SERIOUSLY consider your customer and the frequency that they’re hit with ‘last minute bargains’ and ‘flash sales’. Selling at discount does not require the ‘selling at discount’ template. You can be creative. You can be truthful. You can stay classy.

1.) Embrace Infrequency

If you’ve actioning your email marketing strategy effectively, you can remind your subscribers, whenever you discount, that this is something that ‘doesn’t happen often’.

It’s dangerous territory relying upon your subscriber list as your first port of call for any sales promotions or end-of-month sales boosts.

2.) Stick to your narrative

You don’t have to flower up your design or copy for the discount. Stay on brand. The Bellroy example above demonstrates how you can retain your style and tone of product imagery and copy without resorting to cheesy sales talk.

3.) Consider your recent customers

Customers don’t like to see the sale signs following a recent full-price purchase. Take time to filter out subscribers who have purchased any products now in sale during the past 3 months. This includes the ‘last chance emails’ you may be planning to send too.

4.) Choose your words carefully

It’s far too easy to rush the key element of copy in any email communications. Don’t just go with the default option. Write, re-write, get comfy with your message and take full ownership of the call-to-action buttons. Don’t just stick to ‘shop and save’ mentality. I highly recommend reading this post from the brilliant Dave Dye on how the proper advertising folks never settle on the first draft.

5.) Stay product focused

If you’re sending your emails weekly, that’s 52 chances a year to build the bond between you and your customer. Yes, I did the maths.

The ‘site wide’ 10% or 20% discount code becomes a wee tedious and repetitive and will send your subscribers heading for the exit (the unsubscribe button in this case). If you need to discount, stay clinical with your discounting. Be selective of the products on offer and give a good reason why they’ve been selected. Justify your discount and your customer will feel comfortable justifying their purchase.

Short-sighted broad discounting tactics may give you an end of month bump to the figures but they harm long-term retention growth. Customer retention is where you make your money. You’ll make a lot more of it if you don’t have to run discounts in order to entice sales.

In the age of transparency consider outlining your discounting strategy in a way that your customer a) finds interesting b) will understand.

  • How often do you discount?
  • When do you discount?
  • Why do you discount?
  • What do you discount?

It gives new customers comfort and establishes your own boundaries for internal questions regarding your own discounting strategy.

Written By:

Ian Rhodes


Helping you make best use of today's technology to unlock next-stage ecommerce growth. Get my weekly email, Ecommerce Growth Machine, where I show you how ↴

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