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Maximizing sales with limited-time offers: Strategies and examples

By Stacy Kimbell

December 22, 2023

Limited-time offers are a powerful marketing tool for driving sales and increasing revenue.

A limited-time promotion, with its ticking clock, presents a time-constrained offer. This creates a sense of urgency and scarcity. It compels customers to act quickly and make purchases.

How do you create compelling, limited-time deals that stand out and inspire action? 

This article shares crucial strategies and examples of successful, limited-time offers. You can also use them to influence your customers and maximize sales.

The psychology behind limited-time offers

Why do limited-time offers work so well? 

Consumer psychology plays a key role. These promotions leverage inherent traits like loss aversion and competition to drive responses. They also exploit the customer’s innate fear of missing out (FOMO).

With a closing deadline, they may lose access to a valuable but scarce opportunity. At this point, customers may jump at the chance to buy, even if they weren’t initially interested.

Limited-time sales also tap into opportunism. People buy when they think they have exclusive access to VIP deals, which are generally out of reach. 

Sometimes, it’s the ticking clock that triggers competitiveness. It urges customers to “win the deal” by conquering the closing countdown. This urgency adds a thrill to online shopping. 

Limited-time offers can trigger loss aversion. Businesses use limited-time offers to make customers feel they’ll miss out on a good deal. Especially if they don’t buy before the sale ends.    

Image source MaxTraffic

Designing effective limited-time offer ads

Creating compelling limited-time offer ads takes strategic planning and execution. Yet, this step is crucial to the success of any limited-time special offer campaign. 

Key components of a successful ad

A limited-time offer ad must highlight urgency, value, and exclusivity. To design an ad that stands out and converts, consider the following key components:

  • Clear and concise messaging: Use persuasive words that evoke emotion, curiosity, or excitement. Highlight the scarcity and limited-time nature of your ad to tap into FOMO. Use clear, simple language that speaks to your audience’s pain points and desires.
  • Eye-catching visuals: Use vibrant and attention-grabbing images. Choose high-quality images to showcase the product or service on offer. Your visuals should be appealing and consistent with your brand identity.
  • Strong call-to-action: Feature a bold and visible CTA that guides users on the next steps. Use action-oriented language like “Claim your offer” to encourage customers to act quickly. Support your CTA with a clear copy of the offer’s benefits.
  • Compelling value proposition: Highlight the unique benefits of the limited-time special offer. Use phrases like “only for today” or “limited spots available” to communicate exclusivity. Clearly articulate the value customers will gain by acting swiftly.

Five real-world examples of limited offer ads

Let’s explore some stellar examples of limited-time offer ads. We’ll also analyze what makes them so effective.

1. Bath & Body Works

This is an excellent example of a limited-time-only offer that creates a sense of urgency.  It promises customers favorites are back in stock, and new collections are available. Customers can save up to 75% on select items. 

Bath & Body Works also uses email marketing to promote the sale and drive traffic to its website.

Image via Biggs Park Mall

2. Amazon

The online retailer uses limited-time offers to drive sales and create a sense of urgency. Amazon’s “Deal of the Day” and “Lightning Deals” are great examples. 

These deals are only available for a limited time, and customers must act fast to get the best prices.

Image via Amazon

3. Starbucks

The coffee giant uses limited-time offers to promote new products and drive sales. One example is the Festive ThursYays limited offer, which rewards loyal members.  

Starbucks Rewards members can get their favorite beverages at half price. However, the offer is only available on Thursdays in December from 12 to 6 PM. The exclusive nature of this deal drives signups.

Image via The Today Show

4. Southwest Airlines

The airline often runs limited-time promotions, such as its “Wanna save 20%” sale. These discounts don’t apply automatically. Southwest Airlines users must use a specific code to get the deal.  

In this case, the ad drives urgency by highlighting a Thursday deadline for booking. While there’s a 20% off base fare discount code, one must have registered for Rapid Rewards points to use it. This entices subscriptions.

Image via Southwest Airlines

5. Target

The retail giant also offers limited-time-only, last-minute deals on various products. These include toys and holiday gift sets. 

The ad copy is persuasive, with messaging claiming up to 50% off on select toys. There’s also an extra treat for Target Circle rewards program members. They get a free $10 gift card for every $40 spent on select beauty and health items. 

Image via Target

The art of crafting limited-time offer emails

Crafting compelling limited-time offer emails calls for a strategic blend of elements. Elements like persuasive language, captivating visuals, and a keen understanding of consumer psychology. Let’s explore some strategies and examples. 

Email marketing strategies for limited-time offers

Here are a few email marketing strategies for limited-time offers:

  • Create a sense of urgency: Encourage customers to act fast right from your subject lines. Highlight your offer’s benefit and time-sensitive nature in the email subject and body. For example, use clock emoji in the subject line, or the countdown timer with expiring time in the email.
  • Use persuasive copy: Emphasize your value proposition and the pain points you’re solving. Include comparison displays of original versus discounted pricing to highlight the value of your deal. Use messaging that highlights exclusivity, limited supply, or one-time access. Segment your audience to achieve better and more personalized offers.
  • Highlight exclusivity of the deal: Showcase limited-time discounts or promotions available only to email recipients.
  • Provide clear CTAs and timely delivery: Tell subscribers what they need to do next. Additionally, schedule emails to coincide with peak engagement times. Email delivery should align with the urgency of your offer.

5 examples of engaging limited-time offer emails

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to promote your limited-time offers and drive sales. Here are five real-world examples you could use as inspiration for your campaigns: 

1. West Elm

Subject line: Good news: It’s on sale (Plus, up to 40% off inside.) But only for a limited time!

West Elm uses high-quality images to highlight its approved Pottery Barn catalog deals. 

The compelling copy uses phrases like “Great deals are here, but not for long.” These urge hesitant shoppers to grab the bedding and toiletries on offer. West Elm also personalizes this email by curating items inspired by the recipient’s last visit.

Image via Milled

2. FSAstore.com

Subject line: 🧨 It’s NOW or NEVER 🧨 Spend down before the midnight deadline tonight.

FSAstore.com limited-time offer email incorporates several enticing elements. The “Last call to use it or lose it” copy and the “While supplies last” badge immediately create urgency. 

A countdown timer shows the time left to claim the offer. A helpful Q&A box reminds recipients that they’ll forfeit the offer after the December deadline.

Image via Milled

3. Hulu

Subject line: $1.99/month Hulu. Just For You: LIMITED TIME OFFER. ⏳

Hulu’s limited-offer email is an excellent example of minimalist email design. Its “$1.99/month” offer, written in black over a green background, reinforces brand affinity.  Besides the impressive contrast and brand colors, Hulu also pushes exclusivity.  

This promotional offer is only available to those who click through the email. Terms and conditions are also provided, albeit in fine print. They include who’s eligible and the date by which they must redeem this offer.

Image via ReallyGoodEmails

4. Cue

Subject line: It’s nearly your birthday! Here’s $25 to help you celebrate. Treat yourself to our latest styles.

Birthdays are ideal times to reward loyal subscribers with a limited-time special offer. 

Take a leaf from Cue, which entices with an early $25 birthday treat. Since this is a limited-time offer, an expiry date urges quick action, as does the helpful CTA to “Shop now.”

Image via Milled

5. Collin Street Bakery

Subject line: $5 OFF — $5 OFF — $5 OFF

Collin Street Bakery’s 48-hour limited-time flash sale email is a great example of how to write compelling copy. 

It uses humor to urge action because “… as quickly as you can say ‘save me a slice!’ this flash sale will be over.” The “Get $5 off” and “Shop now” CTAs are also paired with colorful cake pictures.

Image via ReallyGoodEmails

The role of Offerpop in limited-time offers

Offerpop is a social marketing platform. It helps brands create, manage, and analyze engaging promotions. 

Currently known as Wyng, Offerpop is a collaborative experience studio. This studio has drag-and-drop functionality and advanced gamification capabilities. It makes it easy for teams to design and publish experiences with built-in responsive design. 

Popular brands use Offerpop to create successful limited-time offers. These limited-time offers drive sales and increase brand awareness. 

Five examples of Offerpop from popular brands

Five brands have successfully used Offerpop to create compelling limited-time offers. 

1. L’Oréal UK: Uses Offerpop to power consumer micro-experiences, including sampling programs.

Image via Milled

2. Unilever: Uses Offerpop for more signups with time-limited “buy 2, get a flag free” promos. 

Image via Wyng

3. Too Faced: Uses Offerpop to create gamified spin-to-wins with limited-time offer discount codes.

Image via Too Faced

4. LEARFIELD: Uses Offerpop to create a limited-time sweepstakes to boost fan engagement.

Image via Wyng

5. Railbookers: Uses Offerpop to boost personalization and offer curated recommendations and offers.

Image via Wyng

Best practices for limited-time offers

Limited-time promotions need thoughtful strategies to motivate responses. Here are some best practices to help you make the most of them.

Creating urgency

A successful limited-time offer makes customers feel that they need to act fast or they will miss out on a great opportunity.

  • Use countdown techniques: These include banners, countdown timers, progress bars, and email reminders. They convey urgency visually by showing the dwindling time for your limited promotion.
  • Draft limited inventory messaging: Use limited-time offer wording to convey value and urgency. Emphasize scarcity by communicating limited stock availability. Phrases like “while stocks last” create a sense of scarcity and urgency.
  • Strategically time your offers: Launch limited-time promotions during peak buying periods. Align with holidays or special events.

Effective wording

How you phrase your limited-time offer affects customer perception and response.

  • Use action-oriented language: Encourage immediate action with your phrasing. Incorporate compelling verbs in ad copy and email subject lines.
  • Include clear terms and conditions: Outline the terms of your limited-time offer. Avoid ambiguity to build trust and credibility with consumers.
  • Create a sense of exclusivity: Position your limited-time deal as an exclusive opportunity. The language that conveys special access or privilege for participants triggers desires for priority.
  • Quantify savings value: Tell customers what they stand to save. Use phrases like “70% off for a limited time” to compare to regular costs and motivate buyers.

Measuring success

Check the effectiveness of your limited-time offer by tracking and measuring its performance.

  • Define clear objectives: Set specific and realistic goals for your limited-time offer. This could be sales, lead generation, or boosting brand awareness. Ensure the offer aligns with your broader marketing objectives.
  • Monitor key metrics: Track your promotion’s performance using tracking tools. Check conversions, revenue, traffic, and so on to gauge how compelling the offer is. This can help you optimize future campaigns.
  • Collect customer feedback: Request feedback through surveys or reviews to gauge customer satisfaction. This can help you learn what message resonates most. It can also help you gauge your offer’s impact on the customer’s experience.

Analyzing the impact of limited-time offers on sales

Limited-time offers can provide a significant sales boost. Thus, marketers should measure performance impacts to optimize future promotions. Some key analytics worth tracking before, during, and after the promotion include:

  • Customer acquisition rate: Limited-time discounts can result in a surge of impulse purchases. They also incentivize first-time buyers to engage with your brand. Use analytics tools to track and verify the number of your new customers.
  • Conversion rate: Spikes show that your offer resonates with customers. Compare add-to-cart and purchase rates during the promotional period to baseline averages. Also, segment by traffic source to see which channel converts better.
  • Revenue: Short-term revenue is beneficial, but sustained growth matters more. Calculate revenues gotten through your limited-time promotion. Make sure to factor in the cost of the promotion to determine its actual impact on revenue.
  • Profit: Increased sales volume doesn’t always mean higher profitability. You must first account for the discounts offered. Consider using tiered offers to balance revenue goals with profit margin health. Tiered discounts and bundled offers encourage higher spending.
  • Customer insights: Use analytics tools to track customer behavior during the promotional period. Monitor customer feedback and identify their issues or concerns with your limited-time offer. Then, address these issues promptly.

Limited time offers: Wrap up

Limited-time offers are a powerful tool for boosting conversions and sales revenue.

These promotions increase purchases by triggering consumer instincts like urgency, scarcity, and competitiveness.

Tap into FOMO with closing-date call-outs and exclusivity messaging. Have your brand create limited-time offer ads. Additionally, analyze the performance impact to allow for data-backed optimization over time.

Consider using automation platforms like Omnisend, Sendlane, tinyEmail to send limited-time offers at scale. Automating your email and SMS offer campaigns can make every moment count.

The returns from these time-sensitive deals make them worth the extra strategy required. Seize the opportunity, create buzz, and watch your sales soar.

Stacy Kimbell
Stacy Kimbell
Co-founder & Chief Editor
Stacy Kimbell has nine years of experience in email marketing. She's worked with different email platforms and created many successful email campaigns for online and offline, well-established as well as family businesses. Stacy is excited to share her expertise with readers.

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