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Want to Drive More Sales Today? Offer a 30 Percent Discount. In a survey of more than 5,000 shoppers, people said they're open to advertising ... so long as the price is cut.

By Jason Feifer

Prasit photo | Getty Images

If you're going to advertise during the COVID-19 pandemic, offer a discount — or better yet, offer something for free.

That's the big takeaway from a survey of 5,531 consumers, produced by the Canadian product review site Chick Advisor. The company interviewed people about the kinds of advertising they do and don't want to see right now.

This is an important subject, because many entrepreneurs are unsure of how to communicate during this crisis. Is it OK to advertise, they wonder? Is it OK to send cold pitches? The answer: Yes, so long as you're catering to people's needs, and speaking to them from a place of understanding. "Right now," says business consultant Adam Bornstein, "the idea of a stranger reaching out and saying, "I thought you could use this' is one of the kindest things that you could do."

So what do consumers want, and what are they thinking about when they see advertising today? Here's what the survey found.

1. Give them what they want … but lower the price.

If you can drop your price or even give something away for free, you have people's attention.

The results were very clear about this: 84 percent of people said they want to see ads for free product sampling, and 58 percent said they like to see discounts for products they already like. Consider where these people are coming from: Many of them have been laid off or had their salaries reduced — in fact, 84 percent of them said they're concerned about their finances — so they're looking for ways to buy things they enjoy without straining their budgets.

2. The magic discount number is 30 percent.

The survey asked people: "What is the minimum discount you'd need to convince you to shop?"

The answer: Almost nobody wanted a 10 percent discount, a handful of people were fine with a 15 percent discount, and nearly a quarter of people were compelled by a 20 percent discount. But the big winner was a 30 percent discount — with nearly half of all respondents saying that the number would convince them to shop.

3. People really love free shipping.

"If a brand you liked offered you an incentive to shop their online store for items you enjoy but aren't necessities," the survey asked, "which incentive would you need to see in order to make the purchase?"

Here's how people ranked the incentives, from most to least desired:

  1. Free shipping with no (or very low) minimum spend
  2. Flat discount on entire purchase
  3. High-value gift with purchase
  4. "Spend more, save more" (with a higher discount for bigger purchases)

4. Now's a good time to get consumer feedback.

Lots of people have time to spare, and they're willing to give you some of it: Seventy-nine percent of people said they'd be happy to fill out a brand's online survey so long as they have the time. In fact, you might even get overwhelmed with responses. A few weeks ago, Seamless sent out an invitation to fill out its survey in exchange for a $5 Amazon gift card, and the response was so strong that many people couldn't access the survey.

Little incentives like that $5 card might drive more responses, but it isn't actually necessary, according to the Chick Advisor survey. Only 12 percent of people said they needed an incentive in order to give their feedback.

5. Reach people where they are.

In the survey, most people said they don't mind seeing advertising on television, online, in social media or on radio. So if that's where you were reaching consumers before, it's a good place to continue.

One big potential change: If you weren't producing videos, now's the time to start. Of people surveyed, 60 percent said that they don't mind seeing video tutorials or other video content that tells a brand's story.

Jason Feifer

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief

Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine and host of the podcast Problem Solvers. Outside of Entrepreneur, he is the author of the book Build For Tomorrow, which helps readers find new opportunities in times of change, and co-hosts the podcast Help Wanted, where he helps solve listeners' work problems. He also writes a newsletter called One Thing Better, which each week gives you one better way to build a career or company you love.

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