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May 22, 2018

Coupon Marketing Strategy: The Ultimate Guide

Jagoda Hryszko
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Couponing is a tough business to e-commerce. When many small and global brands use discounts and successfully uplift their revenues, also many learn their lessons from harm done by reckless coupon ideas. If you got to the point when thinking about implementing (or improving) coupon strategy to your business, read on. We’ve prepared an ultimate guide with dozens of ready-to-go tips and tactics building a modern coupon marketing. And, if you’re still not convinced whether or not coupons are what your marketing needs, then the next paragraph is for you.

‍Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Does My Business Need Coupons?

Coupons have already become sophisticated marketing tools, which not only drives sales, but also helps in building branding image and customer loyalty. By using a modern infrastructure, coupon campaigns are also a source of tracking data for CRM used to build and continuously improve the marketing efforts in general.

Do you need them? The answer is not up to your business model, market branch, or even your scale. Coupons can help almost every business type and size, if only a strategy is well thought through and planned accordingly to the current budget and clear marketing goals. The way you run coupon campaigns must be consistent with the way your marketing department works.

I Want Coupons. How Should I Start?

After choosing a coupon provider, you need to plan your strategy ahead. In the beginning, run small campaigns with diversified parameters, such as discount value and type, duration, discounted products, etc. Crucial to succeed and move forward is tracking the performance of every single coupon and campaign you launch. You must be patient and aware that it will take time and numerous experiments to figure out what works best for your business.

Quick Tip: If you run a small business, start from choosing one product and run 3-4 coupon campaigns from time to time with different discount types and values. Results will show you which of the discounts work best.

Now, let’s dive deeper and take a closer look at coupon attributes that make them effective.

How to Create Coupons That Work.

Design:  people buy with their eyes, so coupon design needs to catch attention. There is no place for spelling mistakes or poor graphics. If you don’t have an idea or resources, consider employing a professional who can design a coupon project for you that you can later modify for future campaigns.

Expiration Date: always provide coupons with an expiration date to protect your budget and keep the offer attractive. It is already proven that consumers find promotions far more appealing if they are offered within a short time frame.

Clear and Concise Message: less is more here. Too complicated promotion rules or too much text to read will instantly discourage potential consumers from using the coupon.

Tempting Call to Action (CTA): while designing your coupons, remember to make CTA visible to your users. Secondly, don’t be lazy. Figure out something original instead of using the worn out, “shop now.”

Need inspiration? Here are some examples of more creative CTA:

  • “Start saving now”
  • “See how much you can save”
  • “Reveal today’s hot prices”
  • “See what we prepared for you”
  • “Claim your deal”

Track-able Code: whether you decide to share a standalone code for multiple use or use unique codes assigned to particular customers, you need to track each of them through their entire lifecycle. Before choosing a coupon system, check if the provider’s tracking features enable you to analyze detailed redemption data.

Here are some real examples of eye-catching e-coupons done in the right way:

Source: Lane Bryant
Source: Evo
Source: Clearly Contacts Canada

You can strengthen the power of offered incentives once you learn how to use special occasions and holidays to run coupon campaigns. Besides official holidays, personal celebration days, such as birthdays and anniversaries, of your customers are also perfect for a coupon. It’s a great example of marketing personalization, and is much appreciated by modern consumers.

When talking about a marketing personalization, we need to clarify some things in this matter.

How not to Fail with Marketing Personalization.

You have most likely already heard that personalization is paramount to successful marketing. I guess you also heard, or even experienced, the overwhelming privacy hiccup amongst modern consumers. In these circumstances, using personalization in your coupon marketing becomes thin ice, which needs to be trodden upon lightly.

Does it mean it is better to give up personalization? Of course not. The key to moving freely in the field is ensuring a proper balance between “loss” of privacy due to revealing personal data, and benefits the consumer gets in exchange.

43% of consumers agreed that they would exchange personal data with companies to save money through personalized promotions, discounts or deals

To offer relevant deals, which let your clients save money, you need to first know your audience.

It Means You Should:

  • Define their spending habits
  • Specify the time of biggest traffic to fit coupon timing
  • Keep an eye on significant dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
  • Place customers in appropriate segments in your coupon system

What is also important to make a coupon deal relevant is to know what type of products/services your customer purchased. For example, there is no point in offering another winter coat to a customer right after she purchased one. There are things people buy daily, and other items that are only needed from time to time. Following this, your coupon marketing must operate with more sophisticated algorithms and personalize offers in diversified ways.

Quick Tip: Remember that personalization cannot be managed manually at scale. Even in the beginning, it is worth it to invest in coupon marketing software that already supports coupon automation.

When we are done with personalization, let’s go back to ideas for coupon campaigns. We have listed many of ready-to-go examples that you can use in your coupon strategy.

Campaign ideas - library

Product-Specific:

  • When a customer purchases an item for a first time, send a 10% off coupon to the customer for a next product if she/he leaves a review.
  • Offer a $15 off coupon if a customer buys at least three products (The discount can be applied on an entire order or just on a particular product.).
  • Make a coupon with a $10 discount available if the price of any item in the cart is more than $100.
  • If a customer buys one product from a category, send an email with a coupon for another one 20% off.
  • Offer an additional 20% off coupon for specific items if a customer buys anything from the same category within the next two weeks.
  • Offer a $5 gift card if a customer purchased at least two items this month (spent a min. of $50).
  • Make a coupon for a more expensive variant of a product available in the price of a cheaper variant if the order value is more than $100.

Notes:

  • While creating product-specific campaigns, you should be able to define separately which products/variants need to be in the cart and which of them will be later discounted.
  • This kind of campaign enables you to cross-sell and up-sell with coupons. They also help when some products get stuck in your inventory or when you introduce new products in your store.
  • For most of these campaigns, it is good to add a rule with “a required minimum spend.”

Sign-Up Discount:

Send an email with a discount for a first order to every customer who signs up.

Birthday Campaign:

Keep an eye on customers’ birthdays and send wishes with an exclusive discount.

Note: You can use popups, widget forms, or a live chat.

Anniversary:

  • Send customer a message with 50% off to celebrate a year since their first order or sign-up date.
  • Share a $20 gift card for specific items a week or two before the important day.

Note:  

  • All of these campaigns require unique codes and additional rules that validate the redeeming person.
  • People buy lots of personalized presents and share many of their “important dates” with stores. It’s good to ask if they would like to celebrate it with your brand again, but it’s even more important to deliver something really appealing to their tastes, so they have a nice experience instead of feeling like someone is intrusively “watching them.”

Gamified Experience:

  • Banner On Your Site: “Visit us three times this week to buy at least one item and get your surprise coupon.”
  • Banner On Your Site/Email Message: “Answer a simple question about our brand, share it on social media, and win a reward!” The reward can be a gift card, which (properly designed) looks like something special and unique.

Note: Gamification in promotions builds unique customer experiences that increase engagement, loyalty, and retention. We were writing about it here.

Support Issues:

Coupons can be attached to your answer to a complaint or live chat conversation. Every time something fails, you can counter the discontent by sending a surprise discount/gift card.

Note: For more details, you can read our ideas for live chat coupon campaigns with “support issues” included.

Cart Abandonment:

Send an email or SMS with 5% off coupon when a customer abandons their cart.

Note: This tactic, used by global giants, reduces the number of cart abandonments.

Revenue-Based:

Divide your customers according to the revenues they bring. Create exclusive discounts or gift cards for those who bring the highest profits.

Note: Remember to emphasize the individual character of the discount. For example, add a note to the message, “Only 2% of our customers receive this discount.”

Flash-Sales

Place a 40% coupon code on your landing page and enable customers to get discount for the next 12 hours (Add a minimum order value to start discounting when your budget is safe.).

Note: Flash-sales are good to use to experiment and try out new campaign ideas.

Event-Based Coupons:

Send unique coupons if:

  • A customer pays his first order.
  • A customer canceled his order.
  • A customer’s profile was updated.
  • A customer performs another custom event.

Note: The way custom events work enables you to build coupons at every point of the sales funnel and use almost every interaction to trigger coupon send outs.

Retention Incentives:

Each time a new customer places an order, you should trigger an automatic multi-level coupon send out, which delivers coupon codes to active users (from time to time).

Re-Engagement Coupons:

Send one coupon to a dormant user, and schedule 2-3 automatic reminders, e.g., 20% off the next order if you purchase within two weeks. When the code remains unused, reminders will notify user automatically.

Note: You can read more about coupon reminders in a separate article.

Frequency:

  • Send 10% off coupon if a customer placed two orders this month.
  • Send a 25% off coupon if a customer placed four orders this month.
  • Send a $30 gift card if a customer already placed at least six orders.

Note: To automate these campaigns, use dynamic customer segments, updated continuously along with customers’ activity.

Acquisition:

  • Coupon code with 30% discount for all customers who place their first order today.
  • 20% coupon code for regular customers and an additional $5 discount if they share on social media.

Note: It’s good to add a required minimum order value and a rule “one redemption per customer.”

Referral Programs

“Refer us to your friend to get rewards. Every time you referral code is used, your friend gets 10% off. The code can be used five times - 50% discount for next purchase. When you get to 10 code redemptions, you can get a special free product. Each week, a new product is awarded, so keep an eye on the ball!”

Note: Great referral programs are gamified, multi-layered experiences so be creative!

Loyalty Campaigns:

10 points on customer’s loyalty card for each item bought. Points are exchanged for coupon codes divided into categories (loyalty levels). Plus, customers can get extra points by sharing their content on social media, writing reviews, or providing answers to the weekly quiz.

Note: Loyalty programs should offer attractive incentives and be good fun no matter how long a customer participates. This is why gamification is so widely used in loyalty campaigns; it maintains the customers’ interest.

Social Media Share:

  • 5% off coupon if a customer leaves a review on your social profile.
  • 10% off coupon if a customer adds a photo with your product and tags your store.
  • 15% off if a customer shares your post on their social profile.

Note: Social media sites are the right places for contests in which coupons can serve as rewards.

Location-Based Campaigns:

  • 20% off if a customer’s delivery address is Porto.
  • 10% off for a next purchase if a customer visited the new store in Berlin.

How to Use Targeting in Your Coupon Marketing.

Coupons, even those made with lots of creativity, must be appropriately targeted to work effectively. The way you segment your audience must be consistent with shopping patterns and habits performed by your customers. At the very beginning, take your time and learn what habits and features shape your customers buying activities. Then, you will be able to divide the audience into segments and create campaigns accordingly to their preferences.

There is no customer segmentation that works for every business, or even for two different businesses. As every business and audience is unique, you need to dive deeply into the CRM and sales data to choose customer segments criteria.

To make it a little bit easier you may use following examples:

  • Segments based on the age of customers.
  • Location-based segments (postal code, city, state).
  • Segments based on the revenue per customer (revenue per month, revenue per year).
  • Customers divided according to their activity (a number of orders, already spent amount).
  • Segments based on favorite products/services categories.

Advanced segmentation used to target coupons typically requires a combination of many criteria, e.g., location-based coupons for regular customers could be targeted to the following segment:

"Promo codes for customers from Europe, who have placed at least three orders so far and signed up more than one year ago."

How to Promote Your Coupons Online?

Having an idea and, finally, coupons in place are just half of the way to campaign success. The other half depends on whether or not you will be able to reach your target audience and put coupons in front of them. There are many channels you can use to promote coupons online. We have listed them for you, and also added some popular service providers.

Coupon platforms (e.g. RetailMeNot)

Thanks to websites like this, your coupons can reach customers who haven’t heard about your brand yet, but look for specific products. It is a chance to compete with the greatest giants and win new acquisitions.

Our Tip: Watch carefully to place your coupons in the right category as a mistake like this can be very painful and a waste of many resources.

Look at this post to find more coupon platforms ready to promote your coupon codes.

Email marketing (e.g. MailChimp)

Coupon marketing that is supported by emails has one significant advantage; it can be highly personalized. It means extra points to their marketing power and a chance to build 1:1 interactions with potential buyers. To start with email marketing and collect your list, you can also use coupons and offer one on your website in exchange for an email address.

Quick Tip: While acquiring email addresses always inform your visitors about how often you will email them and how they can quit their subscription. Showing respect for their privacy makes people more willing to share their data.

Nearly 50% of consumers like to get coupons and special offers on their mailboxes.

Landing page and blog (e.g. Webflow, Unbounce)

There are numerous options here. You can use simple popups or web widgets and offer coupons in exchange for customer data. What is important in the case of popups is to make them eye-catching, not irritating.

Widgets on your landing page can help you to collect email list.

Social media

Social media are a free source of new and regular users. You can start with standalone code and publish it at different times of day/week. Results will show you when the traffic brings the highest conversion. Don’t give up too soon, social media, same as any other distribution channel, requires patience, lots of tests, and also creativity (Think about some contests, influencers or gamified experience).

SMS (e.g. Twilio)

To make the most of SMS, you need to combine it with geo-targeting. SMS gives you a chance to catch customers right in front of the store, and a coupon makes the message a real incentive. Read more about geo-located coupon campaigns in this post.

Live chat (e.g. Intercom)

The popularity of live chats is continually growing. We recommend it as a support tool, which is well suited to a modern, tech-friendly consumer, and also as a great marketing channel. Besides serving support requests, you can leverage your live chat to build an outstanding customer experience and boost sales. How? By launching flash sales, personalized campaigns, and other coupon ideas through a live chat. Need ideas? Here you go!

Omnichannel Experience

Each of these channels can be a good choice, but only when combined together can they really work great. Whatever channels you decide to use, keep in mind that people strive for genuinely omnichannel experience these days. It means they want a seamless journey when changing from online to offline mode. The way you sync your online coupon marketing with the in-store/offline experience decides its final efficiency and results.

How to measure if a campaign was a success?

Before we start to talk about coupon stats, we need to mention coupon limits.. Only correctly secured campaigns  can be a source of relevant data. Here are most useful limits:

  • Only one redemption per customer.
  • Redemption is available only for the holder of a card.
  • Team members allowed to invoke redemptions are X, Y, Z.

Crucial for coupon and budget safety is a system that validates every redemption request and that won't allow customers to misuse it.

Secure coupons mean a safe budget and reliable data. Information carried with promo codes can give you credible clues about directions for your future marketing. Each redemption should be tracked and include the following details:

  • Customer who redeemed the code
  • Date and time
  • Coupon code, campaign, and redemption channel

It would be tough to process this information manually at scale, so you need a ready-to-analyze metrics and stats systems updated in real time. What do we find the most useful?

  • Coupon types sorted by popularity in a particular period
  • Coupon stats for single customers, presented separately
  • Distribution reports with open rates (OR) and click-through rates (CTR)
  • Separate stats for each campaign (number of utilized codes, current balance, duration)

Of course, more means better here. The most important is to analyze data you get up-to-date and to learn your lessons each time. Tracking and measuring performance is the only right way to build and develop efficient coupon marketing for any business.

Summary

Coupon marketing is much more than coupon campaigns alone. It requires a comprehensive management system ready to build Omni-channel experiences and 1:1 personalized relationships with your customers.

Our last tip for today? Modern software is valuable as much as its integration possibilities. This is why we always advise choosing coupon software with your tech team. With a flexible coupon system with API, you can plug promotional campaigns into your unique business model at every stage of the sales funnel.

Don’t feel comfortable with marketing automation and service providers? Go to our lightweight guide and find what you need (in plain English).
Tagged:
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coupon strategy
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