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 min read
January 10, 2017

E-Commerce Coupons: 7 Hows & Whys


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With e-commerce booming, it’s not unusual to see companies rival each other with coupon marketing, to the point where online shoppers almost expect them, and retailers are obligated to provide them. Coupon marketing is a great way to hook new customers, retain old ones, and (unfortunately) propitiate deal-hunters.

But as is the deal with any kind of marketing, you should know how to create coupons that look alluringly pretty without singeing your profit. So here are some things to watch out for.

The ulterior motive

Ascertain what you plan to gain by coupon marketing. Do you want to bait new customers, encourage old ones to keep buying, market a specific product, or stay afloat of the competition?

Deciding the value

The general rule that works is to keep a higher percentage (20% or more) to get the attention of new prospects, to use a slightly lower number (about 15%) to follow-up the first deal and cement loyalty, and a still lower percentage (5-10%) as a booster for your regulars. With the first, you need to ensure you gain at least the cost price of the product and are not running negative numbers. With the last offer you want to ensure patrons are being pampered, but prioritise your profit.

The coupon mind-set

Once a person is persuaded to buy using your first high-value coupon, the follow-up coupon (which is very essential) makes them return. Beware deal-snaggers: this breed is usually just looking for a deal, and have no loyalty value. So the follow-up coupon will usually let you know whether a buyer is a one-timer or whether they can be further invested in. Now sometimes with regulars, they come to expect coupons quite frequently. This calls for a balance between keeping your cash flow steady and using coupons to ensure continued patronage and sales.

Coupon Types

The two basic types of coupons can be whether they apply to all products in the store or whether they apply to only certain merchandise. The former is a good way to engage with everybody since there is no singular product that will appeal to everyone. The latter works for personalised marketing or when you’re clearing stock. For instance, if a group of people respond to a coupon marked for football boots, you can follow-up with personalised e-mails suggesting a stud spanner, sock tape or a kit bag, which would be relevant to them. As far as clearance goes, a sale may help clear old stock but a coupon can gain new customers.

Devising the coupon

For e-commerce businesses, as well as brick-and-mortars to an extent, your coupons are most likely going to be sent digitally. Which means patrons and prospects will receive them in a flood of other things. So crafting a coupon needs to be done decisively. Brevity is a point that is emphasised most for efficacy. Use design principles to make the coupon jump out at them. Coupon design need to be adapted for different modes of transmission, if you will. E-mailers are different from push notifications, which in turn are different from social media generation and website ads. Mention the discount rate in big titular letters (e.g. 20% off), and use the body to explain what the coupon is for (e.g. save 20% on all sportswear). To save your hide from disgruntled or livid customers, you must absolutely mention the fine-print points in print not so fine that it could be missed. This includes terms and conditions, and expiration dates.


For brick-and-mortars printed coupons sent through mail or as insertions may work. However, online distribution and promotion is better for both physical and virtual store. There are coupon hosting sites, too, to help you with this, some free and some as paid services. E-mailed coupon campaigns reach immediately and can reach a larger audience, too.

Costs and Profits

Apart from revenue considerations of the discount, you also need to consider the money spent in coupon advertising. You shouldn’t account for just the discount value and forget about incidental expenditures accrued.

So, those are the win-win ways to plan and benefit from using coupons in your e-commerce marketing.

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