Coupon Marketing Strategy: 15 coupon campaign ideas impacting every stage of the customer lifecycle.
A promotional campaign strategy should be a part of a broader 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 coupon 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!
Coupon Campaigns for Acquisition
Customer acquisition has become 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 most significant challenge is generating unique traffic and new leads. Low-barrier entry for e-commerce businesses has made it harder 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 essential 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.
Promotions like this can sometimes be taken advantage of by individuals who create fake accounts using multiple email addresses. To safeguard your promo code, it's best to restrict the offer to customer identity parameters such as credit card numbers, user agent data, and device IDs, instead of relying solely on email addresses. Additionally, it's important to keep an eye out for any unusual coupon usage patterns in order to promptly identify any questionable activity.
An exciting 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.
One of the most effective ways for a business to grow is through word of mouth. To increase customer acquisition, it's important to reward loyal customers for promoting and inviting their friends to try your product. This not only incentivizes them to share but also strengthens their loyalty to your brand.
It's crucial that your offer educates customers about your brand rather than just attracting bargain hunters. A good strategy is to segment the referral program by only sharing it with customers who have already tried your product multiple times and have a high lifetime value. This will increase the chances of bringing in similar high-value customers and optimizing 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 followed chiefly 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 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.
It's important to note that your promotions may be shared online, even without your consent. Websites that specialize in promoting coupons and special deals might post them without your knowledge. To prevent this from happening, it's best to work directly with your partners to share promotions. This approach allows you to customize the deals based on rules and restrictions, and tailor them to your customer segments.
However, there is a risk that customers who are already in the purchasing process may leave your site to search for coupons online. This could result in you paying your affiliate partner for a customer that you have already acquired. To keep customers on your site, consider offering a pop-up discount for first-time customers who spend more than the average time before finalizing their purchase. For existing customers, make all available promotions accessible in their customer accounts.
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 exciting 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.
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.
Creating a pre-launch campaign can greatly benefit your brand or product by generating interest and driving traffic before it is even released. As demonstrated by the clothing brand Forever 21, who collaborated with Kylie and Kendall Jenner for a collection line, a successful pre-launch campaign can generate excitement and anticipation among your target audience. While celebrities may not be a feasible option for everyone, offering special deals can still create a buzz and help create a successful pre-launch campaign.
One effective strategy for building excitement and gauging demand for your product before it's even launched is to offer early access or exclusive coupons to those who have signed up. By doing so, you can not only generate buzz around your product, but also gather a user base in advance of the launch.
A good case study is the pre-launch campaign for a dropshipping application, Dropified app, formerly known as Shopified App. The app launched a pre-launch campaign that offered early beta access to potential users who referred three friends through a unique invitation link.
They compiled a list of potential users who were likely to use and purchase the software. After launching the application, emails were sent out with a discount coupon offering early subscribers a $10 discount on the app's lifetime pricing. They compiled a list of potential users who were likely to use and purchase the software.
After launching the application, emails were sent out with a discount coupon offering early subscribers a $10 discount on the app's lifetime pricing.
Picture source: https://upviral.com/pre-launch-viral-case-study/
Coupon Campaigns for 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.
According to a Hubspot study, customer service and success play a crucial role in increasing revenue and differentiating a business from its competitors. By analyzing the service approaches of growing companies versus those that are stagnant or declining, the study found that over half of the growing companies (55%) rated investing in customer service as very important, compared to only 29% of stagnant or declining companies. CEOs and VPs of growing revenue companies understand that acquiring new customers is becoming more expensive, and investing in customer satisfaction is a revenue booster that ultimately helps their business grow.
Here is how coupons can help:
7. Newsletter registration reward.
One of the most important steps in maintaining a strong connection with your users is building a newsletter list. A DMA report claims that 60% of users sign up for an email newsletter to receive the news of special offers. By doing so, you can keep them updated on your brand and even promote new products or offers. You can encourage users to sign up by offering a promotion or a welcome gift as a 'Thank you' note.
When it comes to offering newsletter registration, it's best to wait until the user has spent more time on your website. This way, you can avoid bombarding them with pop-ups and reduce the risk of them unsubscribing. By engaging with potential customers in a patient and thoughtful manner, you can build trust and loyalty over time.
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 participate further 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. Having positive customer reviews on your website can significantly increase conversion rates, improve marketing efforts, and enhance SEO. However, customers often only leave reviews when they have a negative experience, as the benefits of writing a review do not usually outweigh the effort required. To encourage positive reviews, consider offering a reward, such as a coupon for their next purchase or including it as part of a loyalty program. To prevent abuse, limit the reward to once per purchase or customer or for a specific period of time. It's important to make it as easy as possible for customers to leave a review, such as by displaying a pop-up upon entering your website and minimizing the number of clicks required. Remember, showing customers that you value their time and opinion can go a long way in boosting your business.
Coupon Campaigns for Retention
As a business, it's important to keep your customers coming back for more. A satisfied customer not only benefits your brand but also spreads the word to potential customers. However, you can't take loyal shoppers for granted in today's highly competitive e-commerce market. To maintain their interest, brands must work harder and nurture relationships with their customers. Here are some ideas to help you achieve this.
10. Occasional campaigns.
It's important to keep your brand top of mind for your customers by celebrating special occasions with them and their loved ones. Consider promoting a specific category of products or offering a freebie. This could be a public holiday like Mother's Day or Christmas, or it could be your company's birthday or the launch of a new app.
But be careful not to overload your customers with too many special offers. Instead, create a sense of urgency by offering short promo durations or limiting the number of redemptions.
11. Birthday and Customer Anniversary celebration.
Acknowledging important customer-centric milestones such as birthdays or sign-up anniversaries can demonstrate your gratitude towards your customers. Nevertheless, faithful customers may become disinterested in a generic 10% discount and eventually stop engaging with your promotions after a while. You can captivate your loyal customers by personalizing the gift to match their preferences. For instance, if a customer has a high lifetime value, you can offer them a voucher for a special event or an advisory call. Your ingenuity will be greatly valued!
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 appreciation but also reignite their interest again. To prevent abuse, limit the campaign to once or twice per customer.
13. Apology discount.
As a business, it's important to uphold the trust of your customers. If something goes wrong, it's crucial to admit to the mistake and apologize to maintain long-term relationships. Offering a special discount or credits for their next order can help make up for any inconvenience caused. However, be aware that some customers may try to take advantage of this gesture and monitor how many times the offer has been given out.
Coupon Campaigns for Reactivation
Reducing customer churn, which is when a customer chooses to stop purchasing from you, is critical for businesses. In fact, a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25% to 95% increase in profits. However, it can be difficult to determine why a customer chose to leave. While offering discounts through retargeting emails may seem like a solution, it can be a risky investment. It's important to consider whether sending incentives to customers who are likely to leave will lead to profitability. Here are some smart ways to use coupons to reduce churn:
14. Basket retargeting.
Many online retailers struggle with a common issue: customers abandoning their shopping carts. While sending a retargeting email with a discount may entice the customer to return and complete the purchase, it can also lead to a situation where too many coupons are sent out, resulting in lost profits. Additionally, customers may start abandoning their carts on purpose just to receive the offer. Today's customers are savvy and aware of retargeting campaigns and have developed tactics to maximize savings.
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:
If a customer expresses their intention to close their account and unsubscribe, it could be helpful to offer them an incentive to stay, such as a coupon. However, it's important to not offer the discount too easily, as this may unintentionally reward the customer for forgetting about your brand. Instead, consider conducting an interview to understand the reason behind their decision to leave and offer the coupon as a thank you for their participation in the research.
These are our favorite ways to integrate coupons into the campaign chain. What are your favorite promotions?
PS. Check out our next blog post on how to optimize your promotional strategy.
About the Author:
Ewelina is a Marketing Technology Entrepreneur with over 10 years of experience leveraging data to personalize customer journeys across multi-channel experiences. She has a passion for shaping consumer behavior through contextual, predictive, and personalized promotions and incentives that deliver value to both brands and customers.
Connect with Ewelina on LinkedIn.