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Written By Julius Somoye
5 minute read

Promotional codes are an invaluable marketing tool. They help you connect with new shoppers and turn existing customers into evangelists. They can be used to upsell, cross-sell, create brand loyalty and prevent shopping cart abandonment.  

Promotions always require taking a hit to your profit margins, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see an impressive ROI on a creatively executed promo campaign. You simply need to keep outcomes front of mind and use your promotions for a purpose. 

The internet has exploded the number of options available for the delivery of vouchers, coupons and promotions of all kinds — making it easier to connect with shoppers when it’s most important. It also makes it easier to track results and hone your tactics. 

The problem is that digital communication also makes it easy for shoppers to share promotions. It only takes one person to share a multi-use promo code for that offer to get out of control. If your code ends up on a promo-sharing website like, or, a carefully crafted promotional campaign can end up costing you big time, without delivering the results you need. There are times when a ‘viral voucher’ can benefit your business by attracting new customers, but this only works when the promotion remains in your control. 

If you want to create a promotional campaign that avoids promo code misuse and reduces potential damage to your business, read on to find out how… 

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Strategies to prevent promo code misuse

There are several ways that businesses have traditionally protected themselves from promo code misuse. These are often the first line of defence if you suspect that someone out there is abusing leaked promo codes. 


The longer you leave a leaked promo code unchecked, the more potential damage it can do to your enterprise. Often, the easiest way to limit the damage caused by a leaked promo code is to keep a close eye on the promotion. While you want your promo codes to be used by targeted audiences, if you keep track of use rates, it’s easy to spot when a code is being exploited because it’s being used far more than would be expected. If those volumes spike, you can shut down the code. You will then obviously need to offer legitimate users a new option. However, this kind of blunt tactic can stop a viral promotion from damaging your bottom line.  

Setting expiry limits and using short promotion periods

A better way to limit the risk of promo code misuse from the beginning is to simply set short expiry dates and promotional periods. The limited time-period restricts the opportunity for misuse and removes the problem of angering legitimate users if you have to cancel a code that has gone viral. 

Short campaigns can also bring ‘scarcity marketing’ benefits. The limited time-frame creates a sense of urgency and exclusivity around the code, increasing the chance that a code is immediately used and improving its perceived value. More on this later!

The problem with short campaigns is that it limits the types of campaigns you can engage with. It also creates a lot of manual tasks, forcing your teams to create new codes all of the time. To get around this, you will need to invest in tools that automate that code creation. However, if you go down this route and simply automate shorter generic code campaigns, you are missing a trick! When looking to invest in automation tools, you might as well look into unique promo code generators — something we will get back to. 

Integrating an expectation of misuse into your plan

Some brands get around misuse by building an expectation of ‘misuse’ into their campaign strategy. Primarily, this means focusing your use of promotional offerings to outreach campaigns designed to get new customers. Within any promo strategy, this can be a good idea. However, it is limiting. 

First, you can only offer promos that you don’t mind a lot of people using. This removes the option of high-value incentives that you might want to use occasionally. It also makes it hard, in general, to create campaigns targeted at existing customers to improve brand loyalty. When those promo codes get leaked, it undermines the value and exclusivity of these promotions. 

Using single-use codes to stop promo codes leaking online 

While businesses have been able to implement all of the above strategies with some degree of success, they’re all limiting — they either create many manual tasks, or restrict the kind of promotions you can offer.  

If you want true promo security without restrictions to the types of codes you can issue, you need single-use codes. Single-use codes require either issuing, in bulk, a bunch of promo codes or issuing a new promo code whenever one is requested. Obviously, this is an impractical strategy to execute manually, meaning you’ll need software to get the job done. Luckily, there are a number of off-the-shelf and bespoke solutions available that will integrate with your eCommerce platform.

Using software tools to create, issue, validate and process single-use codes creates a solution with few manual steps and nearly infinite customisability — on top of solving the issue of uncontrolled, viral vouchers. In fact, investing in single-use codes brings a whole host of other benefits that are worth discussing briefly. Learn to implement them properly and you’ll find that they outshine traditional, generic promo codes in virtually every way.

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Creative opportunities that preventing code misuse delivers

Making a fundamental change to how you create and issue promotional codes changes the options you have available. The risk of code misuse is completely removed. Automation makes it far easier to customise promotions. Tracking outcomes becomes easier and more granular.  


With single-use promotions, you can not only personalise the messaging, but you can also personalise the discount. With analytics tools, for example, you can learn if a particular customer responds better to ‘discounts’ (50% off) or ‘promotions’ (buy-one-get-one-free). You can also tie the value of the promotion to past purchase history — even ‘gamifying’ the experiences and incentivising particular shoppers to buy more to secure larger discounts. This is a great way to encourage brand loyalty. 

You can apply discounts to items related to those you know a shopper has already purchased, or dissimilar options to encourage them to expand their shopping habits. You can even provide customised promotions to reduce shopping cart abandonment. If you attach a time limit on this code, they’re more likely to make the purchase to secure the discount! This kind of scarcity marketing helps customers get over their hesitation to make a purchase. 

Scarcity marketing

Scarcity marketing is a great way to help ensure that recipients use their promotional codes and engage with your business. But single-use promo codes have the added advantage of complete customisability when it comes to their expiry. You can set codes to expire in a few hours or even as little as a few minutes.

Another example of scarcity marketing is the use of diminishing discounts. A discount could start at 40% but gradually decrease by 10% every ten minutes the discount is displayed. This is a great way to catch a customer’s attention, especially as an email marketing strategy, as it creates a sense of urgency for the customer to get the best deal they can.

Influencer and affiliate marketing

Single-use promo codes also unlock the ability to utilise affiliate marketing in a more targeted way. You can put your codes on a voucher sharing website that would otherwise pose a threat to your campaign, but remain in control the entire time. This also makes engaging with influencers easier and more effective. 

Social media influencers and online personalities have become an increasingly important part of any effective digital marketing campaign. They offer a direct and trustworthy route to connecting with younger audiences, driving the acquisition of new customers and brand loyalty. Single-use promo codes allow you to share offers this way without risking misuse. They also make it simple to track results — something that is beneficial to you and influencers alike. Influencers are enabled to offer unique, customised and personalised promotions, helping them engage with their audience.   

Single-use promo codes deliver security and creativity

Using generic promo codes will only get you so far when it comes to taking control of your promotional campaigns. To embrace true flexibility and security, you need the ability to generate your own unique single-use promotional codes. This goes beyond mitigation strategies — you need to deliver a real solution while opening the door to creative campaign options that will let you stand out online. 

Increasingly, an effective promo campaign requires creativity. Everything online is competitive. If you want to go beyond the ‘bog standard’, you need a solution that goes over and above. If you can partner unique promo codes with clever strategies that are focused on outcomes and connect with shoppers, you’ll develop a promotional campaign able to turn heads and drive results. The technological tools are out there — start comparing solutions and get planning.

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