In this paper, the author sorted out the related problems about the uncertain promotion strategy, and combined with the cases, analyzed and explored them one by one.

1、 Foreword

Promotion play is an important part of e-commerce operation. We collated the current academic research results on uncertain promotion strategies, hoping to answer the following questions and provide reference for the design of promotion strategies.

How to design promotion methods to impress users?

What are the different promotion strategies in different scenarios?

2、 What is the uncertain promotion strategy?

Uncertain promotion is a kind of promotion strategy which can help users to improve the marketing effect by creating a certain degree of uncertainty in the promotion activities. According to the content and strength of rewards, uncertain promotion strategies can be divided into two categories:

Content Uncertainty: not sure what the reward of promotion is, such as the gift of shopping.

Uncertainty of intensity: uncertainty about the strength of promotions, such as random red envelopes for shopping.

It should be noted that the uncertainty strategies mentioned in this paper are compared in the same promotion form (such as the comparison of random red packets and fixed amount red packets), and the comparison of different promotion forms is not within the scope of this paper.

3、 How does uncertain promotion strategy work?

Based on multiple theories, the uncertain promotion strategy is more helpful to enhance the purchase intention of users than the incentive promotion strategy. Uncertain promotion strategies work mainly through the following ways:

1. Arouse users’ curiosity

According to the theory of information gap and internal drive, when the reward content is uncertain (Content Uncertainty), the curiosity of users will be aroused and the willingness to buy the product will be enhanced.

When some clues of promotional information are provided in advance (such as offering multiple alternative gifts, or displaying pictures of multiple gifts), users’ curiosity will increase, and the impact of uncertain promotions on purchase intention will be magnified.

When users can not get any promotion information in advance, their cognitive needs (curiosity) are difficult to produce, and the effect of uncertain promotion is not obvious.

2. Stimulate users’ surprise, excitement, imagination space and other positive experiences

From the perspective of positive emotion theory, uncertainty can provide users with positive experiences, such as surprise, excitement and imagination space, so as to promote sales, especially when users are making emotional shopping.

Emotional buying: will be more sensitive to positive emotional experience, at this time uncertainty promotion will be more popular.

Cognitive buying: they often need clear shopping information clues to help decision-making. At this time, the attraction of uncertain promotions will be greatly reduced.

3. Optimistic estimation of the probability of obtaining high rewards

Many users have an optimistic instinct. When facing uncertain results, people tend to interpret them in an optimistic rather than pessimistic way, and overestimate the probability of the results, thus increasing the attraction of uncertainty.

In general, the uncertain promotion strategy provides users with imagination space, arouses users’ curiosity, and makes users overestimate the probability of winning awards, so as to achieve the effect of improving users’ purchase intention.

4、 What scenarios do uncertain promotion strategies apply to?

The uncertain promotion strategy has a certain applicable boundary. Beyond the boundary, the effect of the uncertain promotion strategy will be greatly reduced or even invalid. The following scenarios are suitable for uncertain promotion strategies:

1. Hedonic goods sales

The theory of expected utility holds that the goal of rational human behavior under uncertainty is to maximize the expected utility. Based on the theory of expected utility, hedonic goods are more suitable for uncertain promotion strategy.

Hedonic products: uncertainty will add entertainment to users, so users prefer uncertain promotions.

Practical goods: uncertainty will increase the thinking cost of users, so users avoid uncertainty promotion.

2. When the promotion lasts for a long time

According to the theory of reference point effect, people’s value judgment of things often depends on their relative value rather than absolute value.

Deterministic promotion is likely to reduce the user’s internal reference price, which makes it difficult for the user to accept the original price product after the product is discounted.

However, the uncertain discount method is not typical and it is difficult to provide stable information clues to form an internal reference price. Therefore, the user’s internal reference price will not be reduced due to such promotional activities.

When the promotion lasts for a long time, it is easy to solidify the internal reference price in the mind of consumers by using the deterministic promotion method, so as to affect the normal sales in the later stage. At this time, the uncertain promotion method may be more appropriate.

3. When using uncertain promotional discounts

Fuzzy effect refers to people’s preference for uncertain results rather than certain results in the face of vague benefits (the benefits may change within a certain range).

When we need to use the promotion method of uncertainty probability discount (that is, only some people get the discount, not 100% users get the discount), how to design the combination of winning probability and discount strength? According to the fuzzy effect, it is better to use the mode of low probability and large margin discount, and the discount intensity should use fuzzy rather than precise discount information.

5、 Enlightenment

According to the above theory, we sort out the applicability of uncertain promotion strategies in different scenarios.


Shouzhigang, Zheng Weihua. Research on sales promotion strategy based on Uncertainty: Theoretical Review and latest progress [J]. Foreign economy and management, 2017 (3)


Author: Jane Hao Ran, official account: Jingdong design center JDC (ID:JDCdesign)


This article is authorized by JDC of @ Jingdong design center and published by the original author. Without the permission of the author, it is forbidden to reprint it

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