6 Ways to Improve your Coupon Marketing Strategy and Increase Sales

ecommerce coupons

Of all the reasons why customers buy something, saving money is near the top of the list. This need to save is why discount coupons have become a bigger part of running a successful ecommerce business. Studies show that customers spend 25% more money with a coupon than without one. There’s even a popular TV show that follows people as they buy hundreds of products with coupons.

Coupons are valuable to ecommerce because they inspire customers to take action. In fact, 48% of customers buy sooner when they have a coupon, and 37% of customers buy more than they normally would.

People don’t have to spend hours combing through weekly flyers, clipping and organizing coupons or scouring coupon sites to find and print coupons. With the right coupon marketing strategy, you can target customers where they already spend time online: via email, text, and social media.

As more ecommerce retailers turn to digital coupons to help sell their products, it’s time you explore new ways to share your coupons. Keep in mind that sharing discounts with your audience is more strategic than posting the same kinds of coupons repeatedly. There needs to be relevance, timeliness, and perceived value to maximize exposure and customer follow-through.

1. Add Discounts to Lead Forms

Just as their name suggests, lead magnets are a helpful tool used to attract new leads. Lead magnets are flexible and let you offer a variety of incentives based on your business type and customers’ preferences. For example, in exchange for sharing their email address, subscribers can get an eBook, access to a webinar, a checklist, a resource guide, or even a video packed with insider information.

One of the most popular types of lead magnets is the discount offer. Subscribers can save a percentage or dollar amount on a future purchase.

Lead magnets pop up automatically on your website after customers either:

  • Spend some time browsing your shop
  • Scroll down the page they’re on
  • Move to close the page—the idea here is to get people to stay on the site longer by offering an incentive

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Lead magnets work especially well if one of your business goals is to grow your email list. 76% of customers are willing to share their email address if it means getting a special offer.

To keep customers coming back, occasionally update your coupon offers since customers are always looking for fresh new deals. Make sure your offers are relevant based on what’s important to your audience. This way, once you have new email addresses, you can nurture your leads and share exclusive offers the general public doesn’t have access to.

For example, Biko, a Canadian jewelry brand, offers shoppers $15 off their first order in addition to access to insider-only discounts:

Since this site’s target audience is most likely millennial women with an interest in fashion and unique accessories, Biko captures the emails of people who want to buy more amazing products and also save money.

To find the right lead magnet, figure out what incentives are important to your audience. For example, 47% of consumers say that free shipping is more important to them than saving on everyday products.

[Source] Unexpected shipping costs are the number-one reason consumers don’t complete their online purchase.

2. Use Limited-Time Offers

A limited-time offer is a discount that customers have access to for a set amount of time. For example, you can set availability to a few hours or a few days. The goal is to get customers to act sooner rather than later by limiting access. Studies show that millennials are especially receptive to limited-time offers—50% say that they find these offers appealing.

Limited-time offers tend to pop up during product launches or special times of the year, like over the holidays. This approach also works well to attract customers who are in the consideration stage of their customer journey. They’ve done the research and narrowed down their options. When they land on your site and see the offer, they understand the value you offer, plus they’re getting what they want and with a discount.

To make your offer stand out from the competitions’, do a little research to see what types of offers other retailers have available. Then find a way to go one step further. For example, if they offer customers a 10% discount on their first purchase, do the same but add in free shipping as well.

Use email marketing to help keep limited-time offers top of mind for your subscribers. Add a sense of urgency to act by including a countdown timer in your emails to remind customers that time is running out for them to buy that product they’ve been eyeing.

You can do even more with this idea of urgency by adding in social proof. For example, include a few testimonials from customers who’ve bought the products you’re promoting.

3. Strategize What Types of Deals to Offer

Percentage and dollar amount off are popular discount options because they work. But don’t feel you have to limit yourself to just these types. The discount you offer depends on your ability to manage the cost financially. It’s one thing to give first-time buyers $20 off, but how will this affect your bottom line? Will you still make a profit, or will you lose money?

Before you launch your discount, think about what matters to your audience. If you’ve already surveyed your customers, then you have data insights handy to learn more. 86% of customers like to be surveyed if businesses follow through with the suggestions made or their suggestions make a difference.

Based on survey results and customer comments, other discount options include:

  • Free shipping
  • Abandoned cart savings
  • Free gift with purchase—offer something inexpensive but valuable that sets the tone for the new customer relationship
  • Chance to win a giveaway—multiple people sign up, but you only give away a small number of products
  • Share a referral—effective because many shoppers want to be seen as a trendsetter

Over time, your customer preferences might change due to new interests, experiences, and advice from their network, so experiment with the types of offers you share.

For example, if you use a tool like HubSpot to manage your lead magnet offers, use the built-in analytics to gauge conversion rates. Check to see how many times your popups appear and how many times leads submit an email address. Once you start to see a consistent decrease in conversion, it’s time to make a change to your coupon marketing strategy.

4. Create a Customer Reward Program

Reward programs are a great way to encourage customer loyalty. In exchange for consistently choosing to buy your products over the competition’s, customers receive exclusive offers that offer value and let them save money. The longer customers stay loyal, the higher their lifetime value (LTV) and your revenue.

By all accounts, reward programs seem to be working. Studies show that 84% of customers say they’re more likely to be loyal to brands that offer some kind of reward program.

Reward customer loyalty by offering special discounts. You can even throw in extra perks like a free product when customers hit certain milestones. For example, send a thank you product when customers hit their one-year anniversary.

The first step in creating an appealing reward program is to figure out what your audience wants. This is based on what you know about them. Ask yourself questions like what kinds of products do repeat customers buy the most and what types of rewards do they use the most—percentage discounts or dollar savings.

Next, segment your customers into groups, so you can create specific programs and messaging for particular types of customers. For example, let’s say you have a clothing brand that caters to men and women. Create a rewards program that lets each segment accumulate rewards, points, etc., to use towards specific purchases.

Some brands, like Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW), even offer loyalty programs with tiers. This way, as customers spend more, they unlock more rewards:

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To keep customers engaged and excited about moving to another reward tier, use email or SMS marketing to remind them of the level they’re currently at and what savings await them.

Also, consider incorporating artificial advancement in your tiered rewards. When a new customer qualifies for the reward program, welcome them by giving them a few “free” points or dollars to get started. A study of the Endowed Progress Effect found that customers gravitate to reward programs where they feel like they’ve already started vs. reward programs that start at zero and customers have to build on them.

5. Use Different Distribution Channels

There’s power in sending coupons via email; in fact, there’s a 48% increase in revenue for businesses that do. But since emails don’t always get opened right away, experiment with other channels to maximize your reach and grow your leads.

For example, use Rich Media Messaging to share discounts since the open rate for texts is even higher than emails. Also, 53% of customers say that they want their coupons to be delivered digitally via mobile. Including a mobile option in your coupon marketing strategy is important because 72% of ecommerce will take place on cell phones and tablets by 2021.

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Also include social media in your coupon marketing strategy since 71% of customers follow brands for the purpose of getting coupons and 74% use social media to decide whether to buy something. There are billions of users across popular social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, so your strategy should include sharing discounts regularly. This amount of exposure is bound to get you noticed and attract many different types of customers.

Be mindful of overusing coupons. If your products are always on sale, they start to feel less valuable, and your lead magnets feel more like a marketing ploy just to get emails or more followers. Plan your discounts around special events, customer anniversaries, or holidays. These are times when customers are inclined to shop more anyway, and it makes sense to target them across different channels.

6. Use Creative Visuals

At their core, coupons are basically a request for customers to buy something. As a result, coupon codes can easily be sent as plain text messages. But where’s the fun in that? Customers appreciate attractive visuals, so use your discount offer to incorporate eye-catching graphics, colors, and text. After all, you want your offer to get customers excited, right?

If you’re using an email campaign as part of your coupon marketing strategy, your visuals can be based on your customer segments.

Take this email campaign for Sephora. After customers sign up for the email newsletter, they get one version with a special offer if they spend $200 or more and another version if they don’t:

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Both options are visually stunning and offer relevant information.

Use the same concept to share your special offers. For example, if a customer uses a coupon, send a thank you email and include links to similar products they might be interested in buying next time. If a customer doesn’t use a coupon when they buy something, send an email that includes a special offer for a future purchase.

This approach works because customers appreciate personalization. 76% of customers say they appreciate when brands include links to products based on their historical purchases. Use your creativity to not only make your offers visually appealing but also to make them more personal.

Taking Your Coupon Marketing Strategy to the Next Level

Keep in mind, coupon marketing strategies work best in combination with other tactics. Relying on coupons alone to grow your business will actually have the opposite effect because customers won’t see the value in your product. They might shop at another store where the perceived value is higher simply because the competition is more strategic about when and how they offer discounts.

Take some time to get to know your ideal customer and their expectations. From there, you can build a coupon marketing strategy that gets noticed and converts more customers.

William Harris William Harris is leading content at Sellbrite and is also the Founder & Growth Marketer of Elumynt, LLC., VP of Marketing and Growth for a top 700 online retailer and former head of Marketing for When I Work, a VC backed SaaS company. William is also a contributor to leading publications like The Next Web, Search Engine Journal, Social Media Today, and Sellbrite and a speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, search engine optimization, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding. Follow William on Twitter (@WmHarris101), LinkedIn, and Google+.