Grabbing the attention of shoppers online is tough. The number of choices shifts the balance of power in favour of consumers. Businesses have responded to this with 89% of companies claiming that they compete primarily through customer experiences.
Coupons, discounts and promotions are a critical tool to reach out and connect — after all, 75% of consumers expect discounts. However, like everything online, there is competition. If you want to break through the noise, you need to go beyond the basic coupon marketing strategies. The upfront investment will be worth it — when done right, promotions will allow you to get new customers, inspire brand loyalty, upselling, cross-selling and more.
Here, we have created a list of five great tips that will put you ahead of the competition, allowing you to grow and succeed. Are you ready to harness the true power of coupon marketing? Let’s get started!
1. Use single-use promo codes and coupons
Traditional coupon marketing strategies are limited by how they’re set up from the start. To function, your ‘coupon’ needs an identifying code — a promo code. The standard way to do this is to create a set of generic promo codes for all of your coupons. Every coupon, for example, offering “20% off jeans” will be the same.
A generic promo code solution is simple, but it brings obvious risks. If that code is shared online, or ends up on a voucher website like vouchercodes.co.uk or hotukdeals.com, a lot more people will end up getting a discount than you initially intended. If your goal is to attract new customers, this might be beneficial. However, it limits the kinds of promotions you can offer and damages your ability to use those promotions to create exclusive incentives aimed at creating customer loyalty, turn existing customers into brand evangelists, or upsell shoppers.
The other problem with generic codes is personalisation. Although you can personalise the messaging in coupons, if you are using generic codes you won’t be able to tailor the discount itself. As we’ll explore more thoroughly later on in this article, personalising your promotions is a great way to stand out.
What you need are personalised, single-use promo codes. The idea here is pretty simple. Rather than creating generic promo codes, you either create a large number of unique codes, or issue a new code whenever a request is made by a potential customer. This is achieved by software that works with your ecommerce platforms to create codes, check eligibility and process the promotion. To match the flexibility of eCommerce, a large variety of these tools have become available in off-the-shelf and bespoke varieties.
Investing in tools that allow you to engage with unique promotions removes the risk of promo code misuse and opens the door to a number of other clever promotional tactics that we’ll now detail.
2. Personalise your coupons
It’s not enough to give customers promotions and discounts — consumers expect deals and offers to be personalised and give them more of what they want from your business.
In fact, 79% of consumers say they are only likely to engage with brands offering discounts if they have been tailored to their past interactions with the brand. However, curiously, only 43% of shoppers actively want to share personal data with brands in order to save money. When it comes to personalisation, you need to be careful. While it’s clear that some level of personalisation is required, you should avoid directly letting your customers know you are ‘data-mining’ them.
What we recommend is limiting personalisation to information that customers have actively and willingly shared with you — purchase histories and personal information supplied when making an account. Birthday discounts, ‘anniversary discounts’ (from the first time they made a purchase with you), or promotions based on how long it’s been since the last time they made a purchase can all be effective ways to reach out and connect.
The goal of personalisation is to make the customer feel like you’re offering them something exclusive — something for them specifically. Single-use promo codes make this far simpler, allowing you to even tailor the level of discount or type of promotion to match their past habits, or reward past shopping history. If customers feel valued, they will be more likely to respond. Make sure everything you do is personalised.
3. Create a sense of urgency
When consumers feel that they have all the time in the world, they’re less likely to take action when you send them a coupon or promotion. No matter how great the offer, everyone is inclined to drag their feet if you let them. They will wait until they get paid to treat themselves or find another reason not to pull the trigger on a purchase.
Urgency marketing is all about reminding the shopper that the time they have to act is limited. It will drive faster response times. It will also increase use rates. A big reason promotions go unused is simply absentmindedness — people forget about the offer and move on with their lives. Urgency marketing allows you to convert the maximum number of people when you initially grab their attention.
You can create a sense of urgency using generic promo codes by simply limiting time-frames for the entire promotional campaign. However, if you use unique promo codes, you can bring that sense of urgency even closer. For example, you could set a 30-minute time limit for each promo code, starting from the moment the email is opened.
Urgency marketing brings the added benefit of building value into the proposition. It implies that you’ve offered them the deal of a lifetime with this promotion and that they should act upon it quickly before you change your mind. These types of promotions are a particularly good way to get customers off the fence — for example, email marketing campaigns designed to limit shopping cart abandonment.
4. Use gamification techniques
We love to play games. We love the simplicity that they represent. In games, endeavour = reward. If only life were that simple, eh? Still, if you can make the act of shopping into a game, you may well find that it results in a dramatic uptick in user engagement. Gamification builds value in the shopping experience and by extension builds faith in your brand.
There are lots of fun ways in which you can incorporate gamification into your coupon marketing strategy. But make sure that the rules of the game are consistent, whatever they may be. If consumers feel as though the game is rigged or simply poorly managed, they’ll be much less inclined to play it.
A simple gamification technique you can start to implement straight away is mystery rewards. These are discounts of unknown quantity rewarded to customers for completing certain actions like clicking through on an email link. It’s always a good idea to use the term “Mystery Prize” in a prominent place (such as the subject line) and to provide defined parameters for the kind of discounts that users can expect.
There are two things that make mystery rewards great. First, people just want to know the answer to the mystery. A desire to solve that mystery will deliver an increase in the clickthrough rate of your email campaign. Second, you will get some of the eye-catching power of offering a great promotion (e.g. 25% off), while actually only taking a 10%-15% total hit to your margins for that campaign. With the right tool, an algorithm can control this, giving out varying discount amounts to deliver your targeted overall discount for the promotion.
First to claim
Diminishing discounts also lend themselves very well to gamification. For example, one could send out an email saying that the first 10 customers to click-through on the link will receive a 30% discount. The next 10 will receive 20%, the next 10 will receive 10% and the next 10 will receive 5%. This is a great way to motivate buyer behaviour through gamification.
Collect and save
We all love to collect nice things. So why not make a game of it? For example, select 5 items from your inventory that share a common theme. Send an email to customers to let them know that if they collect all 5, they could earn a £50 voucher for their next purchase.
Customers will enjoy playing the game and their reward will always mean a sale for you. Everybody wins!
5. Engage with influencers and your customers
In an age where almost half of the global population are active social media users, leveraging influencers has become more important than ever. Consumers trust other consumers, and as such influencer marketing should be a key part of your coupon marketing strategy. Did you know that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, while only 33% trust conventional ads?
Remember not all influencers on digital platforms are Insta-celebs and YouTube stars. In fact, some of the most potent influencers are your own customers. Combining elements of influencer marketing with gamification can go a long way towards incentivising your customers into becoming evangelists.
For an example of this, look no further than the Uber model. The ridesharing giant offers discounts to existing customers who share the service with their peers. When a customer successfully gets a peer to use the service, they use a code that entitles both parties to free rides up to a certain value.
By giving consumers, bloggers, creators and anyone else with an influential platform access to special discounts, coupons and incentives, they become your willing affiliates. They can spread your message into corners of the internet which are hard to reach (or at the very least, expensive to reach) through conventional advertising.
You can also use more traditional affiliate channels like the big coupon platforms (perkbox, nextjump, UNiDAYS and StudentBeans) to target and convert new audiences. Again, this is something that using unique promo codes makes far easier, safer and controllable.
Coupons help you stand out but unique promotions take that to the next level
At a time where consumers have grown increasingly jaded towards traditional marketing methods, a coupon campaign can spark genuine user interest by giving them what all consumers want… something for nothing.
What you need to remember is that you aren’t giving something away for free. Instead, you are making an investment with an outcome in mind. That might be increasing upselling, customer acquisition or brand loyalty. Unique coupons allow you to maximise that engagement by delivering promotions that speak directly to shoppers.
To stand out, you need to be creative and unique. To deliver results that matter to you, you need to keep an outcome-oriented focus. Invest in tools that will let you track results and hone your strategies based on the response of your customers. Experiment with these five tips and get ready to set yourself apart online!