3 ways to discount your Shopify products (and one disastrous way to avoid)

7 min read
created Jan 17 2018
3 ways to discount your Shopify products (and one disastrous way to avoid)

Offering product discounts is an important part of running your Shopify store. Product discounts are a great way to get your products to sell faster throughout the year.

Have a product that isn't selling as well? A discount might do the trick to get it selling faster.

A big holiday is just around the corner? What better way to celebrate than to offer a discount on a select grouping of your products.

Regardless of the reason, one thing's for sure — product discounts should be a key part of running your store.

So what options do you have available for discounting your products within Shopify?

Today I'd like to cover the 3 most common ways of discounting your products within Shopify.

We'll also talk about one product discounting technique that is often used but maybe shouldn't be.

Here's a summary of the topics we'll discuss:

  1. Manually discounting your Shopify products
  2. Using discount codes to discount your Shopify products
  3. Discounting your Shopify products using the Script Editor
  4. One (potentially) disastrous technique to avoid when discounting your products

1. Manually discounting your Shopify products

The first Shopify product discount technique I'd like to discuss is the simplest one — manually discounting your products.

Manually discounting your Shopify products is as simple as:

  1. Change the price of the product
  2. (Optionally) Change the compare at price to the retail price

Say you have a product that retails for $19.99 but you want to offer it for $15. To discount this product, all you need to do is edit the product, change the price to $15, and set the compare at price to $19.99.

And that's it.

Now when customers visit this product they will see the sale price of $15. Many Shopify themes will also use the compare at price to make it clear this item is on sale like so:

Manually discounting products can be a good option because it is so simple and easy to use.

However, one downside to manually discounting products is that it can be tedious. You need to edit each product's price and compare at price to start the sale. If you have lots of products to update, there are Shopify apps that can help automate this process for a price.

2. Using discount codes to discount your Shopify products

The next technique i'd like to cover is discounting your Shopify products using discount codes.

Shopify includes built-in support for adding discount codes to your products.

Each discount code supports different options such as:

  • the dollar amount off, percent off, or free shipping
  • the minimum purchase amount
  • the maximum number of uses
  • the eligible collections or products
  • the start and end dates

For example, let's say you wanted to discount all products in your Clearance collection by 20%. You can just create a discount code that is based on the Clearance collection and set the discount percent off to 20%.

Discount codes are great because they are built-in to Shopify and let you specify very explicit rules of how and when the discount applies. This control means you can easily run sales without much extra manual effort unlike with manually apply discounts.

However, discount codes require you to share the discount with your customers. Also, discount codes don't support certain types of promotions such as Buy One Get One (BOGO), or product bundles discounts.

3. Discount your Shopify products using the Script Editor

The last technique I'd like to discuss for discounting your Shopify products involves using the Shopify Script Editor.

The Script Editor is the most powerful option of the 3 we've discussed.

With the Script Editor, keep in mind:

  • it is only available for Shopify Plus stores
  • you must be comfortable with Ruby programming to create or modify scripts

The Shopify Script Editor lets you execute custom logic during checkout that can apply discounts based on what is in a shopper's cart.

In other words, when a shopper adds an item to their cart, a custom script will run that can check to see if the customer qualifies for any discounts and if so apply them to the items within their shopping cart.

The Script Editor supports all of the same features supported by discount codes. And as a bonus all of this is possible without the customer needing to enter a discount code at checkout.

Because the Script Editor can work directly with the shopping cart using custom logic, you can also run more advanced promotions that were previously not possible.

For example, running a Buy One Get One (BOGO) sale is now simple using the Script Editor. Your script just needs to look and see if there are 2 or more items purchased and then make one of them free. You can even make this discount stackable by making 1 item free for every 2 items purchased.

The Script Editor is great because you can apply much more sophisticated rules than you can do with either manual discounts or discount codes.

However, the steep learning curve and the Shopify Plus requirement may make this a no go for many shops.

4. One (potentially) disastrous technique to avoid when discounting your products

There is one additional product discount technique I'd like to caution you about for discounting your Shopify products — creating hidden discounted products and variants.

The hidden products or variants product discount technique is used by several apps within the app store for discounting products. However, it has some pretty serious drawbacks.

So why would anyone do this if there are serious drawbacks?

Well before the Script Editor, this technique was really the only way to get certain discounts to work.

To make this scenario more clear, i'll explain how this would work with product bundles. Let's say you want to offer a customer 25% off if they buy both a hat and the matching t-shirt.

The way this technique works is you would create a hidden variant of both the hat and t-shirt for 25% off. Then when the customer adds both the hat and t-shirt to their cart, you would replace the full price versions with the discounted ones.

So why is this potentially dangerous?

For starters, it is pretty easy for savvy customers to figure out this trick and cheat the system by only add the discounted items into the cart.

You can make every effort to lock down your shop to hide these products, but at the end of the day they can still be manually added to the cart.

This means you could end up with lots of orders of only your discounted products that do not qualify for the discount.

But there is potentially an even larger issue with this technique — it can wreak havoc on your inventory management.

With this technique, each discounted item is a duplicate of a real item in your shop. So when any one of those products is sold, you need to make sure to update every other version's inventory quantity. If you don't, you may end up overselling these items because you don't know how many you actually have available.

Another consideration is you need to be sure to exclude these duplicate discounted products from your paid product campaigns or you might end up advertising your discounted products.

Lastly, your product reviews and social media likes for these duplicate products should really be counted towards the real product rather than the duplicate.

So while the hidden product or variant does let you offer discounts you couldn't run otherwise, the potential downsides are so high that I'd recommend you avoid it altogether. Instead, focus on using one of the safe and proven product discount techniques mentioned above.

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That wraps up our discussion about the three different ways you can discount your products within Shopify.

Here are the three different ways you can discount a product in Shopify:

  • You can discount a product manually by modifying the price and compare at price
  • You can use discount codes to apply discounts to products based on rules
  • You can use the Script Editor to more advanced custom discount logic (Shopify Plus only)

In addition, there is one type of product discount technique you should probably avoid — using hidden products or variants. Hidden products and variants let you apply some types of discounts you can't normally do otherwise. However, this comes at the expense of some pretty serious side effects so I would not recommend them.