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Whether you’re facing another holiday sales season or just ramping up a weekend promotion, discounts come into play with copywriting on a regular basis.  But have you ever considered the words you use to communicate that discount?  Just like every other part of your copy, your offers need to be tested.

“What’s to test?” you might ask.  Fifty percent off is fifty percent off, right?  Not necessarily.  I can think of 13 different ways to state that discount just off the top of my head.  So… which one works best?

  • 50% off
  • Half off
  • $xx.xx off (whatever dollar amount would equal 50% off)
  • 50% discount
  • Half off discount
  • $xx.xx discount
  • 50% savings
  • Half off savings
  • $xx.xx savings
  • Save 50%
  • Save half
  • Save $xx.xx
  • Buy one, get one free

Which works better?  If you’ve never tested anything but “50% off,” you’ll never know.

One report in Time Moneyland reveals some interesting consumer behavior that suggests shoppers are more likely to bite on the “buy one, get one” offer over something that’s presented as “50% off.”

But what about offers that don’t involve a buy [however many], get [however many] free?  You’re left with choices about percentages vs. dollars vs. fractions.

It’s really all about perception.

People don’t think most of the time when they shop.  They see “free shipping” or other enticements and don’t stop to consider that the product price may be higher than at another site.  Or they see a lower product price and don’t think about the additional cost of shipping.

The same holds true with the perception about pricing.  Is a “50% discount” perceived as more of a discount than “half off?”  And then what about bonus packs or buy-one offers?

The American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing reported on an experiment about just such things.  It’s written in exceptionally boring corporate/researcher speak so allow me to translate :)

Basically, they found that bonus packs (a 6-pack of socks with a free pair added in) or additional enticements (faster speeds, extra goodies, more bonuses) oftentimes makes for a better enticement than a discount of some sort.

I have not found, however, any conclusive and across-the-board evidence about the phrasing of the discount itself. Your own, personal testing with your own, personal followers/customers would still be necessary.

When you’re planning your promotions for the upcoming year, make a point to test the wording of your discounts.  I’d love to hear your findings!

Karon Thackston

About Our GE Network Expert - Karon Thackston

Karon Thackston is President of Marketing Words (, a full-service copywriting agency specializing in web and search engine copywriting. She has over 25 years combined experience in marketing, advertising, copywriting and SEO copywriting. Karon has a strong understanding of the processes involved with creating successful advertising strategies.



1 Response to Phrasing Discount Offers for Maximum Results

Brian Massey

December 30th, 2012 at 3:48 am

How you phrase a discount is a powerful way to increase conversions. Some visitors do not like to do math, or will do it wrong. Therefore, offering 20% off is less effective than save $18. However, high discounts (50%, 90%) may draw buyers more powerfully than the dollar value.

You have to find out for yourself.

This is a nice list of alternatives.

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