golden retriever and black and white cat sitting on couch staring at camera at petpro ai

7 Pro Tips for Using Discounts to Get Customers to Buy

Entice Customers With Discounts?

Your pet product website store is finally live.  Your inventory is either sitting in your living room or in your drop shipper's warehouse. Your paid ads on Facebook and Google are running. You see customers visit your store, and then watch them bounce without buying. Frustrating.

The e-commerce offerings in the pet industry are increasing at an alarming rate. Over the past three quarters, the growth of new pet product stores on Shopify alone has doubled from 1,200 in Q1 to over 6,000 in Q3 of 2022. This is terrific news for pet loving customers, who can bounce all over the web looking for the best deals on the products they want to purchase. With all these choices, the savvy consumer is using price as a major factor in their decision making process. 

According to Vericast, who analyzed coupon use from 2020 to 2021, consumers' use of coupons increased by 27% in Q2 2021 over Q2 2020 at the same time that merchants offered nearly 11% less coupon offers. In other words, even though the economy appears to be in recovery, 70% of consumers are still feeling the negative financial affects of the COVID pandemic.  

E-commerce is complex and requires strategic thinking to correctly balance customer acquisition with customer retention. Before you create and deploy a discount program at your pet store, research a variety of perspectives, including these excellent articles from Hubspot and The Good

If you want to stand out among the thousands of other pet sites clamoring for customers, you have to use different thinking than your competition. You have to see your store from the perspective of your customer. 

If you were shopping for pet products, what would YOU want to experience at an online store?  


black lab looking at laptop screen on bed

Different Discounts You Can Offer 

Below is an introductory list of discounts you can offer your customers. We are huge fans of Shopify's library of resources for e-commerce merchants.  You can take a deeper dive on each of these discounts below in this Shopify article.

Weekly or Monthly Offers

Traditionally these discounts were used at month-end to move inventory more quickly. You can also ensure monthly repeat purchases of consumables like food, treats and toys with regular discounts delivered via email or announced with large banners on your site. 

Email or Newsletter Subscription 

A customer's email affords you opportunities to build a relationship, deepen loyalty, and expose a growing group of people to your offerings. Take this relationship even further by personalizing your outreach to customers, which make conversion and retention even more likely. 

First Time Shopper

When a customer lands on your site for the first time, they likely have already been searching the internet for their desired product. The first time shopper discount gives that prospect the extra nudge to give you their business instead of the multiple other e-comm sites they are browsing.  Make this discount unique to stand out in a crowded world of commerce.

Referral Code

When it comes to selecting products or services, people tend to trust the opinion of friends and family.  A referral code leverages this trust and gives both the giver and the receiver a reward.  Place a referral code in an email to current customers that they can forward to friends and family.  

Minimum Purchase

Give your customers free shipping when they reach a cart threshold (like $75 or $99). Not only does this increase your average order value, it can increase cross sales of products by consumers seeking to fill in those last few dollars. 

Customer Loyalty

When people return to you regularly with their business, reward them with their own personal discount code.  Add this code to a regular email for items they are likely to buy on a regular basis. which increases the lifetime value of your customers.

Holiday or Seasonal

What used to be limited to Black Friday Cyber Monday blowout sales has now expanded to include things like Prime Day, Memorial Day and Back to School promotions. Even though the sale may not have anything to do with "pets", your customer is browsing the internet on those days looking for deals, so let them know you have some worth exploring.

Exit Intent

You've seen those "before you go..." popups as you move your mouse up to the URL bar on a page.  This is the perfect time to sweeten the deal for the customer who is walking out your virtual "door". 


Just like how people trust the opinions of their friends and family, influencers (actors, musicians, social media celebrities, politicians, and journalists) sway people's opinions because people feel they "know" the influencer and are more inclined to trust them.  Partner with these folks to get their endorsement.

Abandoned Cart Email

People window shop, even online, and are looking for the best offers at a variety of stores. Nudge potential customers with a sweeter discount or bundle to entice them to come back to you and complete the sale. Shopify has packed 16 potent abandoned cart emails into this blog post. 

      gray tabby cat staring off camera


    If price is a consideration, what causes YOU to purchase at an online store?


    7 Pro Tips for Using Discounts

    1. Understand how customers view discounts

    Discounts create happy customers. According to a study conducted by and Claremont Graduate University, customers who save money when shopping experience a release of oxytocin. In fact, the study cited that the release of oxytocin with a discount is greater than merely receiving a gift.

    Perhaps the determining factor is that the customer with a coupon in hand is experiencing a level of excitement about getting something they want at a price below its perceived value.  Whereas a gift, as wonderful as it can be, can also be a form of stress for the receiver if they are not certain the gift will be what they want.

    Trust is a factor for using discounts. When a customer uses a coupon in your store, the implicit message they give you is that they trust your original pricing of the product they want. You may have increased the retail price of your products to help offset the reduction in profit when a customer uses a discount code.

    The customer, especially if they are like (XX%) of customers, is seeking the best value at that moment. They will compare your price against the price of your competitors.  They may make note of how much they paid for it previously (and may grumble about it if your prices have increased), but their focus will be on the how much they can save on the product when they are ready to buy. The more straightforward your discount program is, the more the customer will trust it. 

    If you are going to use discounts, be aware that you are training your customer what to expect when they shop with you next time. If you are going to give a discount to a customer, be very explicit about the discount total and timing and frequency. If the discount is a special discount for a specific time frame, be certain you articulate that clearly. 

    Returning customers usually expect a discount with every order, especially with consumables they must purchase regularly. Placing a 10% personalized discount in that regular email you send them will train them to expect a reward for their loyalty.  It can even guide when they make that next purchase.  Just make sure you will still turn a profit on these regular discounts.  See Pro Tip 7 for more details.

    Remember that customers are ultimately self-serving and will use their own form or rational behavior to get the best discount for themselves. We always suggest testing your discount strategy on yourself and your team as though YOU are the customers.  If it won't work on you, it definitely won't work on your customer.

    2. Have sales goals when offering discounts

    As with any business, you should understand what KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you are using to understand the health, stability, and growth of your e-commerce store. Some merchants seek rapid customer acquisition growth without regard to profitability. Others focus on pricing products correctly to ensure solid margins.  And, still others are focused on smooth inventory flows and efficient fulfillment of orders. 

    What are YOUR GOALS as you attract and retain customers to your online pet store? Here is a list to jumpstart your analytical thinking.

    1. What are the margins for various product sales? 
    2. What is the percentage of month over month (MOM) sales growth?  
    3. What is the website bounce rate for each page? 
    4. What are engagement and conversion rates of emails & texts? 
    5. What is the returning customer rate? 
    6. What is the average order value (AOV)? 
    7. What is the lifetime value (CLTV) of my customers? 
    8. How much do higher discounts impact sales & margins? 
    9. What impact does price have on sales and margins? 

    Once you compile the list of KPIs that you want to focus on with your online pet store, create a spreadsheet to track ALL of them. Be diligent about updating them on a regular basis so you can track your progress towards your goals.  Watching your KPIs over time will show you not only how effectively you manage your store, but how loyal and happy your customers are.

    We highly recommend the book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman.  He discusses how keeping track of your customer KPIs on a weekly basis helps you respond to early warning signs before they become bigger issues. 


    golden retriever in pet store smiling while looking at items on racks


    3. Create a sense of urgency

    We all have a fear of missing out (FOMO) that drives some of our decision making. We see this in the decision to buy a product sooner because it is suddenly on sale or the purchase of a lower priced product over the higher  priced product we were considering.

    Holidays are perfect for building in a sense of urgency to your offers. As we stated earlier, Black Friday Cyber Monday, Prime Day, Memorial Day and Back to School are all rich opportunities to offer discounts to your customers. Replace your regular hero banner with a banner focused on the limited time offer sale.  Simultaneously, email your customers the limited time offer using the same hero image and discount total.

    Monthly reordering is another opportunity to create a limited time offer for customers. This works best with repeat purchases of consumables like food, treats, supplements, toys and medications. A study of limited-time offer discounts done by Psychology Today showed that customers tend to react to time constrained offers either right after they receive them or right before they expire. Send an email or text with the limited-time offer for a customer's favorite product a week in advance of when they normally buy that product

    4. Know your customer's buying habits

    With Shopify, you can analyze store and customer activity as well as download into a spreadsheet for deeper analysis. There are 34 reports in the Analytics section on the Shopify basic plan, including gross and net sales, inventory reports, sessions analyzed by time, location and landing page, and top online store searches. These reports not only give you insight into what is selling, but enable you to analyze customer activity and buying habits.

    Why analyze your customers' buying habits? Because when you personalize your communications with customers in alignment with their normal shopping patterns, you have a higher chance of getting them to repeat past actions in your store, i.e. repurchase products.  Find out how frequently they buy products from you. Do they shop at your store at certain times of day? And how are their habits evolving over time? 

    One of these reports is called the Online Store Conversion Over Time report.  You can analyze the time of day your customers shop at your store as well as compare the selected time frame against a prior time frame of equal length. You can take this personalization one step further and use a database tool, like SQL, to query shopping times and days of the week by specific customers.  Use this information to send emails to customers at the times they normally shop.  

    online store conversion over time graphic pet pro ai

    If you know a customer buys from you once a month, email them a re-order reminder with a discount one week before they usually make their purchase. Inform them the discount is a limited time offer to create a sense of urgency and nudge them to buy right then. This has the added bonus of instilling in your customer a sense of relief that you are not going to let them run out of their needed pet product. 

    5. Offer free shipping

    According to marketing group, Common Thread, the top two reasons people shop for pet products online - at 44% each - are the convenience and free shipping. Author Jeremy Smith of The Daily Egg did a thorough analysis of the psychology behind free shipping.  He found that during the 2015 holiday season, free shipping was far and away the most relied upon tool for online marketers. 

    Which makes free shipping a VERY important tool for your discount tool box. 

    However, free shipping might be great for the consumer, but not great for the merchant, i.e. YOU! Free shipping must be done well and thoughtfully to attract the customer and keep your margins clean. 

    Free shipping comes in many styles:

    • Free shipping on everything all the time
    • Free shipping when you spend enough money
    • Free shipping when you buy certain items
    • Free shipping when you become a member
    • Free shipping at certain times of year
    • Free shipping when shipped to a brick and mortar store

    There are many Shopify apps that make free shipping easy to add to your store. If you choose an app from the Shopify store, be sure you understand how it will integrate with other discount apps you use and with Shopify itself.  

    When setting up your free shipping program, always consider the impact to your gross margin.  If you are fulfilling your own products, you have more control over the actual cost to ship the product to your customer. If you waive the $7.99 fee to ship a bag of food and it costs you $11 to ship that bag of food, make sure your product profit margin will accommodate that loss of shipping revenue. 

    If you are working with a distributor or company who drop ships your product to your customer (D2C), make sure you know exactly how much they will charge you to ship every product.  You can easily lose control of your margins if the drop shipment charges vary wildly or are too high. Negotiate carrier calculated shipping with your distributor if possible.

    6. Make deals mobile friendly

    Remember the days when we all cut out coupons from a mailer and presented them to the cashier for our discount?  Yeah, we can't either. Mobile technology has transformed our interactions with everything, including how we make our purchases. The advent of QR codes, emails, SMS and digital wallets have rendered the old methods of discounting obsolete.  


    Mobile e-commerce is up and poised for further growth at statista


    Oberlo writes that "Mobile commerce sales [were] projected to reach $3.56 trillion in 2021" which was over 22% higher than the $2.91 trillion in sales in 2020. In fact, 77% of traffic to merchants is through mobile devices.  However, only 39% of sales are done through mobile devices. Tech savvy customers have been trained about convenience by savvy merchants who optimize their sites for laptops and desktops, which is their medium of development. But customers now expect the same level of ease and convenience on their mobile phones as well. The opportunity for merchants is to make receiving and using discounts easier for the customer wherever they shop.

    Take out redundant steps between when the customer sees the coupon and redeems the coupon.  When the customer clicks on the coupon, it should take them immediately to your store and automatically place the discount in their shopping cart. There is no longer a reason to ask a customer to type in a discount code in at checkout. In fact, according to Statista, a problematic discount code causes xx% of customers to bounce off a page.

    When the customer logs into their account at your e-store, have the coupon code waiting in their checkout screen. And let them know it's there with a modal or chat bubble. The fewer steps needed to get the discount, the more successful the discount program will be. Each extra step required of the customer increases their likelihood of abandoning before checkout.

    7. Maximize your margins 

    One of the most overlooked and misunderstood considerations when creating discounts is how the reduced revenue will impact overall company performance and profit margins. It is tempting to use deep discounts to drive people to your store. There are times when this is warranted, and even expected.  Any holiday as well as Prime Day are great times to use deep discounts.  And in the pet industry, there are many holidays - like national dog day - that can also warrant a deeper discount as well as social media opportunity. 

    There are two keys to maximizing your margins: calculate your revenues with your direct costs AND balance promotions with normal operations.

    Calculate your revenues and your direct costs with a spreadsheet.  

    To calculate margins for your promotions, it is important to track revenues from product sales and revenues collected for shipping. Reflect these as separate rows on your spreadsheet so you can see easily identify margin weaknesses.  Is the product price too low/high or is the shipping charge too low/high?

    Then create columns for all expenses included in your fulfillment process.  If you use a drop shipper, then this will be only one column - Shipping. If you fulfill items yourself, you will want to include the following expenses in your calculations:

    • Boxes
    • Packing Tape
    • Packing Paper
    • Shipping Cost
    • Paper for packing slips
    • Ink for printer

    Break down the cost of each of these expenses on a per unit basis. Once you know the cost per unit, you can add it to the corresponding column for each order. 

    While it might seem excessive, including these items in your calculations will give you a more accurate perspective on how much money you make on every sale and ensure that you are not actually losing money.

    Also include a column for discounts, so you can add them to the orders where a discount code was used. 

    example pet product e-commerce store margin calculations at petpro ai



    Balance promotions with normal operations by being strategic about discount offerings. 

    This includes when you offer discounts, how many discounts you offer, and what the impact of those discounts will be on your margins. First, choose one or two times per year when you will have a blowout sale and then stick to that. Then decide what incentive you will give new customers to buy in your store.    

    Remember to calculate the impact of these reduced prices as a separate spreadsheet in your workbook. Put a sales goal and a margin goal at the top of this spreadsheet. Then determine which products will be included in the sale.  If you are doing a "storewide" sale, then simply copy your master catalog to a new tab. Set up your calculation formulas to automatically update sales and margin as you change product prices.


    grey maine coon cat sitting at laptop staring at camera


    Take a Deeper Dive 

    Leveraging the Psychology of Discounts to Make More Money at Volusion

    Discounts and Consumer Search Behavior: The Role of Framing at SSRN

    Why Limited-Time Offers Entice Shoppers to Buy at Psychology Today

    18 Coupon and Discount Code Ideas for Small Businesses at Shopify

    Why Limited-Time Offers Entice Shoppers to Buy at Psychology Today

    Do Coupon Expiration Dates Affect Consumer Behavior? by Journal of Marketing Research

    39 Expert Coupon Statistics That Will Save You Money by

    Wondering What Realistic Margins Look Like in 2021 for Your Pet Store at

    Pet Industry Trends, Growth & Statistics in 2022 and Beyond at Common Thread

    22 Fascinating Pet Industry Statistics and Facts at

    Picking Your Brain: Where and How Neuroscience Tools Can Enhance Marketing Research at Frontiers in Neuroscience

    Why Discounting Is Bad For Your Brand And What To Do Instead at the good

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