15 coupon campaign ideas impacting every stage of customer lifecycle.
Updated: Apr 21, 2022
A promotional campaign strategy should be a part of a wider mission to shape the brand, deepen the customer relationship, and drive long-term growth. In short, it is a great communication tool to appreciate customers for fulfilling specific actions, celebrating special occasions, or expressing apologies.
Find below our 15 favorite campaign ideas for the right promotions, incentives & perks, with the aim to impact and improve every step of the customer life-cycle: acquisition, engagement, referral, retention, and reactivation. Remember to constantly monitor anomalies in coupon usage to detect fraudulent redemptions!
Customer acquisition got insanely competitive over the years, and it is way harder for startups and businesses with smaller budgets. According to Hubspot's state of the inbound report, 63% of marketers noted that their greatest challenge is generating unique traffic and new leads. Low barrier entry for e-commerce businesses has made it harder more than ever to stand out and attract new customers.
1. New customer offer.
Providing a new customer a discount or voucher to try your service could be the perfect nudge to catch her interest at first, and later convert her from a visitor to a customer. However, it's important to monitor and micro-analyze each promotion, considering various marketing channels & customer characteristics for the full overview of incentives that work best on the highest value customers.
This kind of promo can often end up being abused, by creating fake accounts with multiple email addresses. To protect your promo code, limit the deal to customer identity parameters ( credit card numbers, user agent data, device IDs ), not an email address. At the same time, monitor anomalies in coupon usage to quickly detect every suspicious behavior.
An interesting example is Overstock.com, after spending a specific amount of time on their site, a pop-up window shows up requesting you to spin the wheel to win an offer like free shipping or a 15% off coupon, then it asks you to enter your email address to get your prize.
2. Referral Program.
The most potent agent for growth for any business is word of mouth. To boost acquisition efforts reward your loyal customers for promoting your product & inviting their friends to try it. By doing so, you are not only incentivizing them by giving a reason to share, but also strengthening their loyalty to the brand.
It is essential to make sure that your offer is educating the viewers about your brand and not only attracting bargain hunters. A good strategy here is to segment the offer by sharing the referral program solely with customers who have already tried your product multiple times and ideally, have high lifetime value. This way, you increase the chance to bring alike high-value customers and optimize your marketing spending.
3. Influencer Discount
94% of marketers from a variety of industries said that influencer marketing was an effective campaign strategy. It enables you to tap into an existing engaged community of followers on social media that you might be trying to reach. First, narrow down the target group by scanning for Influencers who match your customer persona and can reach this specific target group. For instance, if you sell baby products, make sure that the promoting Influencer is mostly followed by young parents. A great way to boost the results and catch the attention of the community is to offer the Influencer an affiliate coupon with a specific code to share with their followers.
To be able to benchmark the results and the revenue on investment (ROI), create different codes per partner, and measure the long-term lifetime value that each Influencer brings on board.
Desinio is an online shop that creates high-quality posters and fashionable art prints. They collaborated with YouTuber and social media influencer LilyLikeCom, who produced an apartment tour video on youtube, showcasing how she has styled the Desinio posters in her studio apartment and offering a 25% discount when using “lilylikecom” code.
4. Affiliate coupon websites.
Whether you like it or not, most of your promotions might end up being shared online, often at websites promoting coupons and special deals.
Therefore, it's best to cooperate and share dedicated promotions directly with the Partners. This will let you adapt & personalize the deals ( e.g. by adding specific rules and restrictions ), as well as match the offering with the customer segment brought by the Partner.
The risk here is that the customer who is already on the purchase funnel might leave your site to search for the coupon online. In this case, you might end up paying the affiliate partner for a customer who was already acquired. To keep a bargain hunter on your site, you can add a pop-up discount for first-time customers who spend more than the average time before finalizing the purchase. For existing customers, display all available to them promotions in the customer account.
5. Social Media giveaway.
It can be tough to turn social media engagement into sales. Using marketing automation, ask your followers to fulfill specific actions, and shortly after, send them a coupon to instantly redeem for a discount on their next purchase. A great way to get them to become paying customers.
Another option is to turn this campaign into a contest with more valuable prizes.
An interesting idea is a “Tag-a-friend” in the comment promotion. The basic mechanics is that your fans are rewarded if they get friends to participate in your contest. This helps you to trigger virality quickly, especially if the incentives provided are attractive enough for the winners.
Example: Hydro Flask: Follow & Tag Two Friends Giveaway
In this giveaway, HydroFlask was celebrating a new milestone of reaching 200k followers by running a contest to earn a few more. They asked fans to follow @hydroflask and tag two friends in the post comments to enter for a chance to win a 32-oz. Hydro Flask.
6. Pre-launch / Beta tester Incentive.
A pre-launch campaign can help you to jumpstart a demand, drive traffic and peak interest for your product or brand, and shape how your targeted consumers will perceive your product before they even get it in their hands. Look at the example of ‘Forever 21’, a clothing brand. Launching a collection line in collaboration with Kylie and Kendall Jenner, they created a huge pre-launch campaign - by the day the store began selling the clothing line, their target customers already raved about it. Of course, a big part of Forever 21 success has a lot to do with the celebrities involved in the campaign and like most of us, you don’t have the resources. But, the good news is that with the help of special deals you can still create a buzz and a killer pre-launch campaign.
By offering early access or coupons that are sent only to consumers who signed up for your product before it is launched, you can build up a buzz, have an estimation of the demand for your product early on and collect the user base in advance of the product launch.
A good case study here is the pre-launch campaign for a dropshipping application, Dropified app. Formerly known as Shopified App. The app created a pre-launch campaign, where they first offered early beta access before anyone else, once the potential user opted-in and got three of her friends to sign up as well using her special invitation link.
This way they gathered a list of people that are highly likely to use the software and later convert into paid customers. Then once the application was launched, they started sending out emails with a discount coupon that would give all these early subscribers a $10 discount on the lifetime pricing of the app.
Picture source: https://upviral.com/pre-launch-viral-case-study/
Activation & Engagement
Investing in keeping your current customers happy is a good business in the long term, as it’s five to 25 more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an old one.
In fact, a Hubspot research outlines that customer service and success is the lever for a revenue increase and it is the key differentiator that will keep a business on the growth trajectory. By comparing the service philosophy of growing companies against those, that are either stagnant or declining, over a half - 55% rated investing in their customer service program as very important, compared to 29% of stagnant or declining companies. Those CEOs and VPs of growing revenue companies can see that with the increasing cost of acquiring a new customer, investing in keeping their customer happy is a revenue contributor and it will ultimately help their business grow.
Here is how coupons can help:
7. Newsletter registration reward.
A DMA report claims that 60% of users sign up for an email newsletter to receive the news of special offers.
Building a newsletter list is critical as it gives you the chance to stay connected with your users, express your brand, and is a great opportunity to send them news about new products or offers. You can either use the promotion to incentivize customers to sign up and provide you their email address or rather send a promotion as a welcome gift after subscription to use it as a ‘Thank you’ note.
Be patient and do not offer the newsletter registration pop-up shortly after the customer enters your website. Instead, wait until she spends more time on the site, this way you will not be offering the coupon with high frequency and high probability of unsubscription, rather engaging with a potential customer.
8. Loyalty programs.
It makes your brand more customer-centric and it gives you the advantage to align your entire business towards the most profitable segment of your customer base, retaining them, and increasing your customer lifetime value.
However, the Hubspot stats show that the average customer is involved in 14 loyalty programs but can only efficiently engage in 7. The competition is high but smarter, personalized rewards might help you to keep them motivated and willing to further participate in the program. Airlines have mastered the rewards programs, however, even as an e-commerce business or startup, you can steal some ideas.
Gilt Insider club is a good example of a loyalty program that offers special deals but also exclusive benefits ( free shipping, access to special sales or events) in exchange for points.
To keep customers engaged, they use the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ psychology trick, visualizing their progress toward reaching the next reward. Looking at their customer account, shoppers can see the benefits they could potentially have. Gilt also gives customers 500 points as a welcome bonus when they join the club. The "fear of missing out" encourages shoppers to keep purchasing or fulfill specific actions ( eg. refer a friend), as it creates a feeling of advanced progress in reaching the special status.
9. Product review or Feedback rewards.
Product reviews are incredible add-ons for e-commerce sites. According to eMarketer, 90.8% of consumers preview product reviews before purchasing. Moreover, it is proven that having ( mostly, but not only ) positive customer reviews on your site drives the conversion rate, makes marketing more impactful, and strengthens the SEO.
The problem is, usually, the benefit of writing a review doesn't outweigh the effort, so the customers often do so only when they got a bad experience. You can use the situation to show them that you value their time and opinion, and offer a reward in exchange ( for example, a coupon for their next purchase). If you don't want to be too aggressive with discounts, reward shoppers for writing multiple reviews instead or include it as a part of the loyalty program. To prevent abuse, restrict this deal to once per purchase, or even once per customer ( or a specific period of time).
PS. Remember to make it as easy as possible for the customer to write the review - for instance, displaying a popup once the customer enters your website, the fewer clicks needed in the process the better!
Customer retention is the ability of a business to retain customers. A happily returning customer is like a holy grail to the business, and chances are, will also tell other potential customers of a product and service, promoting your brand. However, you shouldn't take the loyal shoppers for granted - the e-commerce market got insanely competitive over the years. That means, brands need to work harder to keep their customers' interest. Keep nurturing the relationships with your customers by implementing the following ideas.
10. Occasional campaigns.
Keep your brand at the forefront of your customers' thoughts and celebrate together the occasions that are special and important to them and their loved ones. Ideally, restrict promotion to a specific category of the products or a freebie. It can be a public occasion, like Mothers' Day or Christmas celebrations, but also the birthday of your company or a launch of the new app.
However, try not to overwhelm with special offers - boost the urgency with a short promo duration or the number of maximum redemptions.
11. Birthday and Customer Anniversary celebration.
Celebrating customer-centric occasions like birthdays or sign-up anniversaries will show your customers how much you appreciate them. However, loyal customers might get bored with yet another 10% discount and after years, just simply stop reacting to your promotions. Surprise your existing users by customizing the gift according to their preferences. For instance, if the customer has a high lifetime value, give them a voucher for a special event or advisory call. Your creativity will be highly appreciated!
12. Thank you for Waiting.
Unsure whether to display in your shop products that are not available in stock? Turn it into an opportunity! Simply add on your site an option for the customers to sign up for the ‘Back in Stock’ email notification. When the product reappears after a longer period of time, send an email notification with a ‘thanks for waiting’ note and include a discount ( limited to be redeemed only on that product). This way, you will show your customers an appreciation, but also reignite their interest again. To prevent abuse, limit the campaign to once or twice per customer.
13. Apology discount.
You have worked hard to earn the trust of each and every customer. To keep long-term, make sure you admit whenever something went wrong and apologize for what happened. You can send a special offer to make up for it in form of a discount or credits for the next order. However, certain customers might notice the trick and try to use your weakness against you to monitor how many times the offer has been given out!
It’s when a customer chooses to leave and stop purchasing from you and working on reducing it, is critical. A 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25% to 95%. The problem here it’s that you do not know why this customer chose to leave and while you may think it’s the price and start sending retargeting emails includes a discount, you must realize that it’s a very risky investment. It’s important to ask first “will sending an incentive to a customer most likely to churn, she may keep purchasing, but will she be profitable for you?”
Here is how you can smartly use coupons to reduce churn:
14. Basket retargeting.
It’s a major problem that most online retailers face. However, sending a retargeting email with a discount in the hope to get the customer back to complete the purchase, chances are she will come back but you will end up sending too many coupons, losing money in the process, and building a customer base who has abandoned the basket just to get the offer from you. Customers have gotten smarter, they know all about the company’s retargeting campaigns and they have built a very strategic way to work around to get the offer and save some extra money.
The best practice here is to create a campaign chain instead of a single message and implement strategies to include the discount. Check out our previous post to Stop sabotaging your basket abandonment rate on how to do it right.
15. Reactivation coupons:
When a customer is about to close her account and unsubscribe, it’s a good way to try to incentivize her to stay by sending a coupon. However, don’t offer the discount so easily, as this way you will actually reward your customer for forgetting you. Rather, try to interview her beforehand asking why she is choosing to leave. Then, offer a coupon for taking part in the research!
These are our favorite ways to integrate coupons into the campaign chain, what are your favorite promotions?
PS. Check our next blog post on how to optimize your promotional strategy.