Do limited-time promotions work?
Sales & Marketing

Do limited-time promotions work?

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Have you ever wondered why limited-time promotions can be a hit in-store but a bit of a snooze online? Let's dive into the nitty-gritty, shall we?


Here's the ke Offline (like in a retail store), limited-time promos are like the life of the party—everyone wants in. Online? Not so much. But don't fret, you can still make 'em work by doing two things:

  1. Justify the rush: Tell people why now and why the clock is ticking. Is it your store's anniversary? Are you celebrating a holiday?
  2. Keep it short & sweet: The quicker the promo, the better. Aim for 24 hours or less, but make sure it's long enough for folks to actually see it and buy.

Why does this work? 🤔

So...why does this even work? Offline in the real world, scarcity is like catnip—we just can't resist. But online, it can feel like you're trying to pull a fast one on us because the same laws of scarcity don't apply. And nobody likes to feel rushed into making bad decisions, right?

Here are a few more insights the researchers found in this study to help you plan your next promotion:

  • In-store limited-time promos bump up willingness to pay by 10%. What about online? The effect was negligible.
  • A Facebook ad with a justification (like "Spring Sale") had 93% higher engagement when less than a day remained.
  • Emails with a time-sensitive promo and a reason (like "Mother's Day is coming!") were 23% more likely to be opened.


There were a few limitations worth calling out. The data in this research study was all about attention and engagement, not actual sales.

Also, if you limit by quantity ("Only 5 left!") instead of by time, you might annoy people, so be careful.

The researchers also found that the bigger the brand, the more they can get away with doing it any way they want. For example, the Amazon's and Best Buy's of the world can bend the rules to their will! But us little guys have to be more careful.

How to put this into action

Here's how you can put this into practice:

  1. Keep it short: Aim for a 1-day promo.
  2. Justify it: Tie it to an event, like "National Donut Day" if you're selling, well, donuts.
  3. Get creative: If there aren't existing special days or events related to your product, make up your own! Everyone love celebrating, so give us a reason to.

So, ready to make your online promos as irresistible as grandma's cookies? Go get 'em, tiger!

Want to learn more? 🤓

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can dig into the nerdy details in the original marketing study here.

Quote of the week 💬

"Limited-time promotions are the marketing equivalent of speed dating: fast, intense, and you better make a move before time runs out."

About the author
Gabriel Mays, the Co-Founder and CEO of POPSMASH
Gabriel A. Mays
Gabriel Mays' Website
Co-Founder & CEO at POPSMASH
Before POPSMASH, Gabe was a Director at GoDaddy and founded two startups. He was also a Marine Corps Captain, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives with his wife and two kids on Cape Cod, MA.

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